Govt. shutdown would close parts of Great Smoky Mtns.

5:56 PM, Apr 7, 2011   |    comments
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Federal Services which would be impacted if the Government shuts down

-All military personnel will remain on the job, but will not be paid until after the government resumes operations. April 15th paychecks would cover only eight days instead of two weeks.
-Taxpayers who file paper tax returns would see a delay in receiving their refunds. Electronic filing will not be impacted and the tax deadline of April 18th will stay in place.
-All Veterans affairs services would continue.
-Medicare payments to Doctors and hospitals would not stop unless the shutdown lasts for months.
-Social security payments to current beneficiaries would continue, but it is not clear if the agency will handle any new applications.
-Passport processing could be delayed
-The Department of Energy has enough funds that aren't tied to a yearly budget to continue operations for a limited time, so the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex would continue operations.
-All 393 National Parks will close as well as other federal tourist attractions like the Smithsonian Institution.
-House hunters should be aware that the Federal Housing Administration won't guarantee mortgage loans. The proportion of mortgages guaranteed by the FHA has increased dramatically, from 12% to 30%, since the last time the government shut down in 1995, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

"We just remain as upbeat as we possibly can and hopeful that a shutdown won't happen," Supervising Park Ranger Kent Cave said.

But if the federal government shuts down Friday at midnight, then the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will shut down, too.

"All right Miss Vanessa. Have you ever ridden a horse before?" a guide asked 6-year-old Vanessa Kelly Thursday as she mounted a horse.

Vanessa and her family traveled from Michigan to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Sugarlands Riding Stables at the park are part of their spring vacation.

"This next couple of weeks would be as busy as middle of the summer. That's when you as a company expect to do good business," Sugarlands Riding Stables Owner Kenny Kear said.

The stables are a concessioner under contract with the federal government and administered by the National Park Service.

If the government shuts down, then the park will close gates, cutting off access to roads, trails, visitor centers, and the riding stables.

"We would do that in as orderly a fashion as we can," Kent Cave said.

In the event of a shutdown, some essential park staff would probably remain, like law enforcement rangers.

But most workers would be sent home on unpaid furlough.

It would be unsafe for visitors to be in the park without enough park workers on hand for search and rescue operations.

"If people have reservations for certain areas like the picnic pavilions, we are trying to contact them and let them know that there's a possibility of a shutdown," Cave said.

Even the possibility of a shut down could keep visitors away from the park and businesses like the riding stables.

"It's like having a cloudy sky. you don't go riding with a cloudy sky, even though it's not raining. Well, the clouds are there. They know that there's a possibility they're not going to get to do the things they want to do if they come here so some of them are just not going to come," Kenny Kear said.

Even if the shut down closes the park and his business, Kear will be at work Saturday morning.

"Even if the government shuts down, horses eat," he said. "So we're still going to have enough people here to care for the animals."

Animals that gave Vanessa Kelly her very first horse ride.

The park does not yet know if Highway 441 through the park would remain open or close during a shut down.

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