BENNINGTON - When the U.S.government shut down for the first time in 17 years early Tuesday morning, many were left wondering the effect would be on their daily lives. It appears that, should the shutdown be short, the effect on most Vermont residents will be small.
The largest effects the state will see immediately are the closing of Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock, which is a slightly less than two-hour drive from Bennington, and the U.S. Forest Service, which oversees the Green Mountain National Forest. A call to the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forests central office in Rutland yielded a short, simple answering machine message: "This office has been temporarily closed due to the lapse in government funding."
The two closest state parks to Bennington, which should not be adversely affected by the shutdown, as they receive most of their funds from the state of Vermont, not the federal government, are the Woodford State Park on Route 9, and the Lake Shaftsbury State Park in Shaftsbury. A representative from the Woodford State Park, which features 398 acres of land and has the highest elevation of any park in Vermont, said that most of the park's funding comes actually from visitors camping in the park. "We're pretty self sufficient here," she said. The park has not yet seen an upswing in business from campers who may have been planning trips to national parks, but they could as their season, which ends on Columbus Day weekend, winds down. They did, however, have many worried guests call to confirm that their reservations for this weekend were still good.
On Adams Reservoir, Woodford State Park borders the George Aiken Wilderness Area, part of the Green Mountain National Forest. The GMNF shares a "leave no trace" policy with the rest of the country's national forests, but without anyone to enforce these policies, trash has built up at several of the trailheads along Route 9. At the AT/LT Trailhead, part of the famed Appalachian Trail, an outhouse was locked up tight Wednesday, with a sign declaring that it will continue to be closed as a result of the shutdown.
The closure of the Forest Service has not kept hikers away from the trails though, as vehicles from Massachusetts, New York, and even a few from New Jersey, could be seen parked at the trailheads, despite it being a weekday when a Banner reporter visited on Wednesday, and an overcast one at that. This is good news for local businesses, which may have been poised to lose significant business during the area's peak tourist season, should campers and hikers have decided to stay away from the national forest.
More information on Vermont's state parks can be found at vtstateparks.com
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB