Potential federal government shutdown would disrupt area's national parks

Staff writer

If the federal government shuts down, you’ll probably notice it if you try to get into one of the area’s national parks.

The administration and congressional Democrats were at odds over funding for President Donald Trump’s long-promised border wall, and on the standoff appeared likely to push the federal government toward a partial shutdown Friday afternoon, just hours before a deadline for the deal at midnight.

The White House held fast to its demand for a down payment of $5 billion to build the wall, which would be built on the United States’ border with Mexico, the Associated Press reported. About a quarter of the federal government will be affected if the shutdown happens, including national parks and the Homeland Security, Justice and State departments.

Around the Williamsburg area, the most obvious sign of a government shutdown might be disruptions to the area’s national parks. The Post Office has a separate revenue stream and wouldn’t be affected by a shutdown.

Colonial National Historical Park — the local arm of the National Park Service that administers Yorktown Battlefield, Jamestown Island and the Colonial Parkway — expected to lock up its facilities but not take special pains to deny entry to park lands, park superintendent Kym Hall said earlier this week.

Hall couldn’t be reached for comment Friday afternoon. Another park official, Becky Eggleston, said Friday afternoon she was unable to comment on what will happen in the event of a shutdown because the shutdown hadn’t taken place.

“I have nothing I can comment on,” Eggleston said, though she said Hall had been in meetings with staff to discuss the local parks’ game plan in the event of a shutdown. She didn’t elaborate on that point.

Instruction from the White House and national agencies can vary from site to site in the event of a shutdown, Hall said Monday.

“If an entity is an office, then it’s different than being public land,” she said.

Basically, if it has a lock on it, it will be locked and if it doesn’t have a lock, no special effort will be taken to prevent the public from accessing it, Hall said. So while you’ll likely be able to walk around Yorktown Battlefield in the event of a shutdown, you won’t be able to get into the park’s visitor’s center.

The Colonial Parkway was expected to remain open to motorists. The agency’s law enforcement officers will remain on duty, Hall said.

The park service isn’t allowed to block access to private property, so while the park services’ portion of Jamestown Island would go dark if there’s a shutdown, people would still be able to enjoy Historic Jamestowne.

Which is good, because Historic Jamestowne plans to be open.

“We do not receive and state or federal funding. We plan to keep our 22.5 acres of the island open to visitors in the event of a government shutdown,” Historic Jamestowne spokeswoman Kelly Beckley said in an email.

The site, which is centered around the ruins of the first permanent English settlement in North America, is run by the private nonprofit Jamestown Rediscovery on behalf of Preservation Virginia. Jamestown Rediscovery manages the 1,500-acre Jamestown Island with the National Park Service.

While there would likely be “a few small changes to operations,” tours and programming would continue normally, Beckley said.

Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation’s museums — Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum — are state-operated and won’t be affected by the shutdown.

Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, jojacobs@vagazette.com, @jajacobs_

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