Park service turns off lights
By MIKE CORN
NICODEMUS -- They were given just four hours Tuesday morning to turn out the lights and lock the doors at the National Park Service offices at the Nicodemus National Historic Site.
Site superintendent Angela Wetz isn't even sure the four NPS employees who showed up for work will be paid for the effort, much less when they might return to work.
Closed signs went up early Tuesday morning at the Nicodemus Township Hall and at NPS offices two blocks away, all in the wake of a continuing political stalemate that prevented Congress from passing legislation to fund the federal government.
As a result, all but essential employees -- dealing with health and safety -- received furlough notices.
The park service wasn't alone, as barricades went up at campsites operated by the U.S. Army Corps of engineers at Lake Wilson. It's the same at Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge. The Hays office of the U.S. Geological Survey closed as well. Local and area Farm Service Agency and Natural Resource Conservation Service offices also are closed.
It's difficult even finding out what agencies are closed as many federal agencies -- the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and USGS, for example -- shut down their websites, pointing to the federal shutdown.
While the U.S. House is working on a bill that would fund popular agencies, such as NPS, it wouldn't affect Lake Wilson or Kirwin.
"We're shutting down," Wetz said Tuesday as she and other NPS employees powered down electronic equipment and secured doors on the park office, a storage shed and the township hall.
"They gave us up to four hours."
Well removed from the political struggle, Wetz was at a loss for details.
And she was hesitant to say much about how it would affect either her or other staff members personally at the site.
"There are eight of us total," she said of the number of people working for the NPS at Nicodemus.
One is part-time and two are temporary full-time workers; the five remaining employees are career park service employees.
Wetz voiced concern about being unable to spread the history of the all-black community of Nicodemus.
While Nicodemus is a living community, and, as a result, won't be closed, the park service's mission will be halted.
Wetz said more than 3,000 people a year visit the historic site.
She's hoping the government shutdown won't last long.
"We want to get back to work and do our job," Wetz said. "We hope we can reopen soon. But we're waiting like everyone else."