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Government shutdown hits Big Thicket
KOUNTZE - By Justin Hinton, KFDM News
Big Thicket National Preserve is one of 401 national parks closed from the government shutdown.
We received word from Washington that the shutdown was taking place.
We received the notice by 8 oclock, and we pretty much had everything shut off by noon, superintendent of the park Doug Neighbor said.
He is one of 30 employees furloughed at the park. The other four not furloughed are considered essential and include law enforcement officers, a fire duty officer and a maintenance employee.
More than 100,000 acres of the park are closed to visitors, including more than 47,000 acres of hunting ground.
Last weekend was the opening day of hunting season and certainly those that didnt get their hunting permits before hunting season are trying to get theirs now, Neighbor said.
Those who tried found locks on the gates and a posted notice explaining the reason for the closure.
No backcountry camping permits, hunting, nor trapping permits will be issued until the preserve reopens.
Neighbor says a group of 140 kids was expected to participate in an all-day environmental education program at the Visitor Center, but he's not sure at this point if they'll be able to attend. If the park remains closed, they won't.
The visitors are impacted, but also the surrounding community in that 10% of our visitation provide about a million dollars to the surrounding communities, Neighbor said.
The last government shutdown at the end of 1995 and beginning of 1996 forced Big Thicket National Preserve to close for three weeks.