THE EVERGLADES (CBS4) – Everglades National Park did not disappoint Thursday as alligators cruised by and turtles came face to face with tourists.
Everglades National Park ranger Leslie Velarde is at home as she points out the birds nest in the trees, but thanks to the looming government shutdown, she soon may really be stuck at home.
“We are hoping that Congress is going to come to a conclusion that will avoid a government shutdown,” Velarde told CBS4’s David Sutta. “If that’s not the case, we are preparing for all scenarios.”
The scenario, if the government shuts down, is a full National Park system shut down. The gates at Everglades National Park that welcome nearly a million guests a year would close.
“I’ve never seen one happen,” Velarde explained. “For safety reasons during hurricanes sometimes there is a closure.”
But she’s never seen it like this. The park is supposed to be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The last time the park closed for a government shutdown it was 1996. Senior staff is now deciding who will stay on out of the 275 employees.
Those who stay would be charged with protecting the park from fire and trespassers should the shutdown happen Friday night.
In addition to the national parks shutting down, so would the national park website. It apparently is considered a virtual park.
Lyman Wilde, a snowbird, was touring the park Thursday and said he was upset about the possible closure.
“How could any American not regret seeing that happen? Our national treasures and economically it’s got to be tough on Florida between the oil spills, and the hurricanes some years ago.” said Wilde.
Wilde wasn’t alone. Many tourists were concerned about the effect of the shutdown on South Florida tourism.
“If they know that the Everglades is shut down a lot of people will go someplace else.” said Cutler Bay resident Roger Wasserman.
Wilde hopes Congress figures it out quickly.
“Hopefully they will behave like adults and we will get results,” Wilde said.
Congress has until Friday night at midnight to figure it out.