Government shutdown felt at Greater Williamsburg's historic sites

Staff Writer

As parts of the federal government remained closed for the 17th day Tuesday, the visible impacts of the shutdown are more apparent in Greater Williamsburg day by day.

The partial shutdown continues to affect historic sites across the area, from trash that has gone uncollected outside the Victory Monument in Yorktown to shuttered visitors centers in Yorktown and Jamestown.

After President Donald Trump and Congress came to an impasse on his request to fund a border wall with Mexico, the federal government partially shutdown Dec. 22.

This isn’t the first time a federal government shutdown has affected Historic Jamestowne in James City County. It’s the third, according to Jamestown Rediscovery’s director of visitor services Kelly Beckley.

As the visitor center on Jamestown Island remains closed, Jamestown Rediscovery has been forced to move its admission ticket sales outdoors to a tent adjacent to the center.

“We have seen a decline in retail revenue since our main museum store is located in the closed Visitor Center building,” Beckley said in an email. “Fortunately, we have not had to cut staff hours. The staff have all been eager to help run our revised operating plan.

Most Jamestown Rediscovery projects continue unabated during the shutdown, Beckley said. Archaeologists continue their digs, the curatorial team continues to prepare for the 2019 commemoration and tours are still scheduled.

While the shutdown continues, the foundation will only collect its half of the regular admission ticket price of $20. The other $10 the National Park Service would collect simply isn’t being paid by visitors.

Calls to the Colonial National Historical Park Superintendent’s Office return an assistant’s voicemail.

“Due to the lapse in funding of the federal government, I am out of the office,” the voicemail said Tuesday. “I am not authorized to work at this time.”

While the shutdown comes outside the height of the tourist season in Greater Williamsburg, visitors still want to see what they came here to see.

For Steve and Gail Davis of King George County, they drove nearly two hours to visit Jamestown yet again. They first visited in 1970 after they married.

Steve Davis, 69, read Dr. Bill Kelso’s book on the Jamestown Island site recently. It rekindled his interest in the history of the area.

“I decided because of this over the last month or so, to actually try and come down here,” Davis said. “We’re well used to government shutdowns, but there was no reason given the explanation on the website not to take advantage of the archaearium and things that had been part of the rediscovery project.”

Davis said he was a former federal employee who worked in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside Washington D.C. This isn’t the first time he has experienced a shutdown either at work or personally, and in this case, he said he approves of the government shutdown.

“I’m very much for border security and legal immigration,” Davis said. “So I see the cause, and some people see the cause and some people will just avoid that. If that’s the reason we’re going through this, so be it. I would have much preferred to go through the visitor center. I’m sorry I missed that, and we will come back and see that.”

Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329, by email at srobertsjr@vagazette.com and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.

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