Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: Local shutdown casualty - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore among local shutdown causalities

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Photo courtesy of FOX 32 News Assignment Editor Lisa Sharmat. Photo courtesy of FOX 32 News Assignment Editor Lisa Sharmat.
CHESTERTON, Ind. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

The full effects of a federal shutdown for Northwest Indiana aren't clear yet, but at least one local service will be closed to the public: the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Bruce Rowe, public information officer, said the park would be completely shut down except for employees needed to secure the park, such as firefighters and law enforcement officers.

"Of course we're remaining hopeful the federal government won't shut down, but we have been preparing in case that does happen," Bruce Rowe, the park's public information officer, said Monday.

Unless Congress can pass legislation to continue to fund the federal government, a shutdown of government operations remains a very real possibility. Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have refused to back a stopgap funding measure to keep the government going past the Sept. 30 end to the federal fiscal year unless that legislation also defunds Obamacare.

If there is a shutdown, the lakeshore, like other national parks, will be closed to the public, including its trails, beaches, Dunewood Campground, and other facilities. Rowe said four or five campers are at the campground; they would have 48 hours to leave.

The vast majority of the employees at the park, around 75, would be placed on furlough, though the park's 10 law enforcement officers and 10 or 12 firefighters would remain for security and public safety.

Rowe said that although the weekdays around this time of the year are some of the quietest, the campgrounds are normally packed on the weekends in the beginning of October. The next big event hosted by the park is the Oct. 19 Century of Progress homes tour, though Rowe hopes the shutdown won't take place and the tour will go on as scheduled.

For now, park employees have been instructed to watch the media and check a park service phone line for updates. In the event of a shutdown, Rowe said park staff would report to work briefly Tuesday morning to close the park down.

"We're trying to remain optimistic that a shutdown won't happen," he said.

U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky did not comment on how a federal government shutdown would affect his constituents in Northwest Indiana but said in an emailed press release that he would continue to work on their behalf.

"I regret that some of my colleagues seem to have forgotten that we are elected to govern, and this can only be accomplished by deliberative discussions and reasonable compromise," he said.

A shutdown would not affect the Adam Benjamin VA Clinic in Crown Point, an employee said, and it also would also not affect the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area law enforcement group, Executive Director Charles Porucznik said. The group is funded through grant money, which already has been approved by Congress.

Porucznik said that as of Monday morning, he had been told federal officials had made plans for that money to continue to flow even if the government shut down. However, Porucznik said he did not know if the other federal law enforcement agencies that take part in HIDTA, like the FBI, would still be open. Representatives with the FBI could not be reached for comment, but Porucznik said that when he previously worked for the FBI, they remained active during past shutdowns.

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