National parks were among a handful of places and programs that were actually shut down in the wake of Congress failing to resolve its budget debate. Without a deal, the government will go into a partial shutdown, sending non-essential workers home and halting non-essential services, such as national park management.
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, which in 2012 had nearly 2 million visitors at the site off Stilesboro Road just north of Marietta, closed its gates Tuesday morning. This was the first time it’s been shut down in about 17 years. The last time it was for three weeks.
“The park is closed and will remain closed throughout the duration of the government shutdown,” said Chief Park Ranger Anthony Winegar.
Park officials received word at 7 a.m. that the park would be closed, meaning that the visitor center at the busiest national battlefield in the country will not be opened and 14 employees will be furloughed until Congress makes a decision. Four rangers, including Winegar, will remain on site to help manage the property in the meantime.
“We are asking for the public’s cooperation and assistance while we try to manage what is a tremendous leadership and management challenge,” Winegar said.
Winegar, who has worked for the National Park Service almost 15 years, stood guard at the entrance of the parking lot all day Tuesday, trying to keep park attendees from driving into the parking lot.
“We understand what the public’s frustrations are and we are trying to manage those in the most efficient way possible, so that when this is over, there’s a minimal interruption in the service, but we do have our requirements,” he said.
People were still allowed to walk into the park and were parking in a county lot less than half a mile from the park entrance but were reminded by Winegar that it was closed.
This closing also impacted other portions of Sope Creek and Cochran Shoals in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area that runs through east Cobb along the river.
Parkgoers still hitting the trails
“It was a shocker to see that the park was closed,” said Smyrna resident Marie Gonzalez. “I didn’t know it before we got here.”
Gonzalez went running at Kennesaw Mountain on Tuesday morning with two friends.
“As soon as we walked up, an officer said, ‘At your own risk,’” she said. “But we thought that we could just call an ambulance if something happened.”
Gonzalez said she doesn’t expect the shutdown to affect her otherwise.
Chriss Hass drove all the way from Milton to hike the trail around the same time as Gonzalez. She makes the trip about once a week.
“I came to do my favorite hike in the world,” said Hass, whose car was turned around at the park entrance.
“The ranger just told me that the park is closed due to the government shutdown but I see that people are still hiking and my plan is to go to the other (parking) lot and get my hike and my exercise in and go about my way,” she said.
Hass also said she thought it was sad the country is going through the partial shutdown.
“I wish that we could all get on board and decide about this Obamacare and not have these repercussions,” she said. “I didn’t think it was going to affect me but if I were following the rules it would.”
What else is being affected?
The programs, agencies or federal agency closures in Cobb that could be affected by the impasse include Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Women, Infants and Children programs at the Department of Public Health that has offices in Cobb and the Internal Revenue Service offices in Smyrna and Marietta.
An estimated 800 people at Dobbins were furloughed, including 575 civilian employees, and they will be left without paychecks until the federal budget is passed by Congress.
Lt. Col. James Wilson said he received word to begin the shutdown at about 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Nancy Nydam with the Georgia Department of Public Health said that while some aspects of WIC are being impacted, at this time the Georgia WIC program is operating business as usual.
“The Georgia Department of Public Health and Georgia WIC are working on steps to keep WIC operating for as long as possible,” she said in an email release.
Anyone who calls the IRS offices in Cobb will be reaching a recorded message stating their offices are closed until the budget is resolved, but tax payments and deadlines will remain in effect, including the Oct. 15 tax extension for Form 1040 returns.
Departments and programs virtually untouched by the “shutdown” include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the unemployment insurance program, federal Food Stamp program, the U.S. Postal Service and all air-traffic controllers, TSA workers and baggage screeners at airports. The myriad of other federal programs, including the National Security Agency’s controversial data mining and data collection programs, also continued uninterrupted.
For more information or a list of details regarding the shutdown, visit usa.gov.