Cumberland Times-News

October 1, 2013

Area parks close, some remain open — for now

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — If you’re caught by one of the rangers still on duty, you may be asked to leave the C&O Canal National Historical Park towpath. If you want help from an Internal Revenue Service local office, forget it. But don't forget to pay your taxes, including those due at the Oct. 15 deadline for extensions from April. A message on the phone line for the LaVale IRS office makes the point that taxes are still due on time very clear.

Welcome to the brave new world of the federal government shutdown.

Even canal park superintendent Kevin Brandt was about to leave on furlough Tuesday, when he returned a call from the Times-News.

“It’s pretty straightforward, we’re in the process of closing the park,” Brandt said. Gates and parking lots will be closed off as much as possible, Brandt said. All visitors centers will be closed. Only law enforcement rangers will remain on the job; all other employees will be furloughed, Brandt said. That’s about 75 people who were working at the C&O Canal park. Campgrounds are also closed and no new campers will be permitted, Brandt said.

People should know “park employees are ready and willing to come back to work as soon as they are allowed,” Brandt said. Brandt said he remains hopeful an agreement will be reached soon. A news release from the C&O Canal Trust also added information about the park.

“Bicyclists planning rides from Pittsburgh to D.C. on the GAP (Great Allegheny Passage) and C&O Canal should plan to turn back at Cumberland,” the release said, and handles have been removed from all well pumps, among other closure operations.

“After working side-by-side with the wonderful staff of the C&O Canal NHP for many years, it's heartbreaking for the Trust to see them closing the doors, given no choice but to turn away thousands upon thousands of visitors seeking to recreate and rejuvenate along the canal’s towpath,” said Mike Nardolilli, president of the trust. The trust urged citizens to

contact their congressman about the shutdown and to

offer encouragement to park

personnel.

And you can still complain to your federal representatives, although depending on whose office you’re trying to contact, you may have to get in touch with Washington rather than talking to someone at your local office. Many of those working for U.S. senators, including U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, have been furloughed as a result of the federal shutdown, staff at Cardin’s office confirmed. Cardin’s office at the Western Maryland Railway Station has a sign on the door indicating the closure is due to the shutdown. A message left at Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s offices in Washington and Hagerstown was not returned.

However, U.S. Rep. John Delaney is keeping his field offices open. Delaney’s nearest office is in Hagerstown, although he offers regular hours in Cumberland.

“Our offices will remain open during a government shutdown,” said Delaney. “We have a constitutional duty to continue our legislative work and to continue representing the 6th District. This is a deeply misguided and unfortunate government shutdown and I will continue to call upon my colleagues to do the right thing and reopen the doors of our government.”

Jennings Randolph Lake will remain open, at least temporarily, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District. The corps “will temporarily continue full operations despite a lapse in federal funding. This means Corps operated campgrounds and day use areas will remain open and all reservations will be honored. Moreover, parks with leased areas and/or concessionaires can remain open as well,” a news release from the corps said. That situation could change, however, if the shutdown lasts long.

“The corps is unique among federal agencies in that it is funded mostly through individual projects that may carry over funds from year to year. All Baltimore District recreation areas and dams have enough remaining funding for work to continue at least through Oct. 7, 2013. If the lack of an appropriations bill continues, the district will re-evaluate its remaining funds weekly to determine which projects can continue to operate and for how long,” the release said. Facilities run by other corps districts may not be open.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.