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National Parks in Missouri, Arkansas Get Back to Business

Buffalo River
Buffalo River near Ponca, AR./Credit: Scott Harvey

Following a 16 day government shutdown, national parks are working to get back up to speed. KSMU’s Scott Harvey has more.

Caven Clark is the public information officer for the Buffalo National River in Arkansas, where crews on Thursday were working to remove barricades along the river’s 135 miles. He feels that local tourism took a hit during the shutdown.

“This is a time of year when we get high visitation, we call it our shoulder season, when we get a lot of people coming in to look at the elk in Boxley Valley, to take some of our tours of historic Boxley Mill, and to see the fall colors.”

Clark says that upwards of 90 employees with the Buffalo National River were furloughed over the past 16 days. In the coming days, they’ll be trying to reschedule events that were postponed through the first half of October. 

The same is true for Ozark National Scenic Riverways, the southern Missouri Park where more than 50 employees were furloughed, including Park Superintendent Bill Black.

“Our biggest use right now is with our gigging season, where people like to – mostly the local community – likes to get out on the water in the evenings and gig, and have their fish fries. So we really messed that up for ‘em,” Black said.

The national park service was one of two sites in the state for which Gov. Jay Nixon was looking to develop a proposal to reopen using state funds. That proposal was not needed after Wednesday, when Congress approved a deal to restart the federal government and avoid a potential default. But the continuing resolution agreed to by a majority of US House and Senate members expires in mid-January, leaving the possibility of another shutdown shortly after the New Year.

“I think this was the 17th or 18th shutdown, and I’ve been through all of them in my 40 years working for the government. So yeah, I think there’d be a concern,” Black said.

Black adds that if another shutdown were to happen in January, during the park’s slow season, tourism would not take as much of a hit, and fewer seasonal employees would be on hand.

But many other federal employees and services would not be as fortunate.