Government shutdown closes local recreation areas

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Reporter - Kendall Downing

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Ill. - The gridlock in the nation's capital may seem far away, but we are feeling the effects in the Local 6 area.

Tuesday morning managers at the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Williamson County, Illinois began the process of suspending operations.

That means the refuge and the visitors' center is closed indefinitely. Any events on the schedule are cancelled.

"It's the fall time of year, the color's changing, the weather's cooling. It's a popular time to come out to the refuge," said Kathleen Burchett, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge manager.

The campground is quiet. Crab Orchard Lake appears like a sheet of class. It's unusually somber for October.

"It's hard for us to go home. It's hard for us not to do our jobs because we do it with such passion and grace," said Burchett.

Burchett said more than two dozen employees are furloughed, effective Tuesday.

This is the second government shutdown she's experienced in her career.

"This time it hurts pretty hard because I am the refuge supervisor. I feel for my people very much," she said.

All parts of the refuge are now closed. That includes Crab Orchard Lake, fishing ponds, and campgrounds. Officials gave campers 48 hours to pack up their things and leave.

Edward Mobley is one of them.

"Every Columbus Day weekend we've been coming down for about thirty years," he said.

He and his wife planned to stay for two weeks. Instead, they're headed home with a vacation stifled by the shutdown.

"I don't think it's to blame any one party, but they've forgotten who they work for," he said.

Burchett just wants the call to come back to work.

"It's discouraging. I hope that people reach across and compromise and get this done as soon as possible, so we can get back to doing what we do best," she said.

The U.S. Forest Service is also affected by the shutdown. That includes the Shawnee National Forest with headquarters in Harrisburg, Illinois.

A phone recording there tells callers that staff will be unavailable until federal funding is restored.

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