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Currently at a crossroads, a dark cloud hangs over the US. Photo: Ryan Struck // The New Surf


The Inertia

National parks are among the first government services that will be affected by a government shutdown. The United States Federal Government shutdown takes effect October 1st, 2013, and it could affect the economy negatively in the long-term as it did in 1995-96, when the U.S. lost over $1 billion dollars. The shutdown comes at a time when policymakers are at a stand-still over the Obama’s Health Care Plan. With both parties up in arms, unable to make a decision and without funding, the federal government has slowed to a stop.

Yikes. So what does this mean for the surf community? Plenty.

Tourism will take a hit. The rangers who run national monuments and National Parks are considered “non-essential” Federal Employees and will be closed immediately starting Tuesday.

The shutdown shouldn’t affect California State Beaches or State Parks; however, USA Today reported that it could effect Sandy rebuilding efforts. Lawmakers in areas hard-hit by Sandy worry the shutdown could seriously hamper recovery efforts at the worst time–just as coastal communities are working on dredging, beach replenishment and other projects in advance of the winter storm season.

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“What about the Army Corps of Engineers person who inspects beach projects? The [Housing and Urban Development] person who oversees the grant money? Without those people in those positions, it will slow down or stop those programs going forward,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

President Barack Obama stated in his national address Monday:

“If the Congress does not fulfill its responsibility to pass a budget today, much of the United States government will be forced to shut down tomorrow… NASA will shut down almost entirely…Business owners would see delays in raising capital, seeking infrastructure permits, or rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.”

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With a Federal government shutdown, MercuryNews reports that padlocks are expected to begin going up Tuesday at the gates of over 400 national parks across the United States from Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay to the Washington Monument. Thousands of visitors will be sent home and local businesses will suffer.

National Parks, like Yosemite, are the first to close their gates during a federal shutdown. Photo: Ski Channel | Jodi Trivers

National Parks, like Yosemite, are the first to close their gates during a federal shutdown. Photo: The Ski Channel | Jodi Trivers

Stephanie Burkhart, a spokeswoman with the National Park Service, said that immediately following a shutdown, all day use visitors will be asked to leave every park. People staying at campgrounds and park hotels will be given 48 hours to leave, she added.

Of roughly 23,000 National Parks employees, 20,000 will be furloughed, and only essential law enforcement, maintenance and fire personnel will remain, Burkhart said. Major roads that run through parks, like the Tioga Road, a state highway running through Yosemite’s high country, will remain open. Back country hikers will be allowed to stay until their permits expire.

However, there are many other immediate concerns, especially in Southern California where many citizens rely on federal services and military populations are high. The military’s 1.4 million active duty personnel would stay on duty, although they would be paid later. About 400,000 people, half of the Defense Department’s civilian employees, would be sent home without pay. As of Tuesday, it is possible that many health services, IRS and passport services will not be answering calls, as doors will be temporarily shut.

If the shutdown lasts a few days, any financial hardship would be felt mostly by furloughed workers, according Voanews.com. If the shutdown lasts a few weeks, tourism revenues would slip and anxious American consumers and businesses would think twice before spending money.

Why can’t lawmakers agree on a spending bill? According to Voanews.com, the Republican and Democratic Parties disagree on a plan to provide health care insurance to millions of uninsured Americans. Republican members of the House of Representatives are refusing to sign an appropriations bill that includes funding for the health care program known as Obamacare. Democratic members of the Senate are refusing to sign a spending plan that does not fund Obamacare.

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Tuesday is the first day for uninsured Americans to shop for and buy health insurance policies on the exchanges. According to USA Today, Obama said Monday that those exchanges will open regardless of what Congress does.

As President Barack Obama stated in his national address, the Federal Government is America’s largest employer with over 2 million civilian workers and 1.4 million active duty military serving around the globe.

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