As a shutdown of the federal government looms, the National Park Service is preparing for closure, including the 6,000-acre Gettysburg National Military Park.
The U.S. Congress has been unable to pass a 2011 budget, and instead has been funding the government with temporary measures that expire Friday. Without a spending plan by the end of Friday, the government will start to shut down Saturday, with 80-full time employees at Gettysburg National Military Park likely out of work.
“We remain hopeful that there won’t be a government shutdown, however as President (Barack) Obama stated, in the unfortunate event that there is a shutdown, the National Park Service will be closed,” said NPS spokesman David Barna, from Washington D.C.
Barna indicated that even though the GNMP Visitor Center is privately operated by the park’s management partner, the Gettysburg Foundation, the $103 million complex might close as a result of the pending government shutdown, because “park employees work there.”
“That’s our understanding,” said Barna.
The four-year-old 139,000 square-foot complex is located along the 1100 block of the Baltimore Pike, south of Gettysburg, and is home to an artifact museum, Cyclorama painting, and movie theater.
However, GNMP spokeswoman Katie Lawhon said it is unclear how the government shutdown would affect park operations, and that local staffers “won’t know much in advance.” The local park’s plans are in a state of flux, and if a government shutdown occurs, information regarding Visitor Center, Eisenhower Farm and Wills House operations are being made available to the public, by calling the park at 717-334-1124; logging onto the park’s website at www.nps.gov/gett; or calling the Gettysburg Foundation at 1-877-874-2478.
Other NPS visitor centers around the United States are operated by the federal government, and are expected to close if there is no budget, but the Gettysburg Battlefield Visitor Center is in a unique situation, since it is managed by a private group.
Similarly, the Park Service owns the David Wills House Museum on Lincoln Square in Gettysburg, but it is also operated by a non-profit group, Main Street Gettysburg. Main Street President Deb Adamik said her group is unsure what will happen Friday, if there is a government shutdown.
The Eisenhower Farm is operated by the Park Service, and its employees.
Barna pointed out that there are 394 parks nationwide, averaging 800,000 visitors daily. Those parks employ 20,000 full-time staffers, as well as another 20,000 concession employees.
“It’s a huge blow,” admitted Barna.
In addition to the 80 full-time staffers employed at the Gettysburg park, the foundation employs 99 full and part-time staffers, along with about 155 Licensed Battlefield Guides
According to the Associated Press, essential government personnel, such as soldiers and intelligence workers, would remain on the job in a government shut down, but non-essential personnel — such as Park Service staff — will be furloughed, until a budget is put into place. If the shutdown continues for a a few weeks, military personnel would work without pay.
The last government shutdown occurred in 1995-96, under former President Bill Clinton.
Obama and Congress would still be paid, if the shutdown occurs. Members of Congress and the president are treated different from federal workers because they are paid through mandatory spending that is required by statute — and not through the appropriations bills that fund the government.
There are about 1.9 million civilian government employees, and nearly half would be told to stop working, if a deal isn’t in place by Friday night.
There have been six stop gap resolutions passed since last fall.