At 5 p.m. each day, a park ranger closes and locks the gate at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Hodgenville. But Friday night, when that happened, it felt different.
Tourists like Franny Ford, from Nashville, soaked up the history an hour before it happened.
“I’m glad I did. It’s really neat,” said Ford, a fan of the National Park Service. “I didn’t really know what to expect.”
It’s a good thing she got there when she did, because when the gate closed Friday night, it could remain closed for days or even weeks because of the looming government shutdown. Even though visitors can still access outdoor portions of the park by foot, the visitor center and museum will remain closed too.
“It makes me really sad to think that this is happening,” Ford said.
But the shutdown will be felt beyond the park. At nearby Mammoth Cave National Park, based on general information provided by the Department of Interior, it appears cave tours won’t happen during a shutdown.
“In the event of a government shutdown, national parks will remain as accessible as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures,” said National Park Service Chief Spokesperson Jeremy Barnum. “For example, this means that roads that have already been open will remain open and vault toilets will remain open. However, services that require staffing and maintenance such as campgrounds and full service restrooms will not be operating.”
It’s not just parks.
The Kentucky office of the U.S. Small Business Administration, headquartered in Louisville, is also prepared to close up shop, and it won’t be able to lend funds to help grow small businesses during a shutdown. If a shutdown lingers, District Director Ralph Ross said it could make some deals awkward.
Additionally, the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kentucky, which helps farmers across the state through implementing the federal farm bill, could furlough workers at 64 local offices. Right now, it’s doing everything it can to minimize the impact of a shutdown.
However, there’s good news at the Louisville International Airport, where a spokesperson said the TSA and FAA workers won’t be impacted, since they’re considered essential personnel.
According to Fox News, the U.S. Postal Service won’t be affected, because its independently funded, and Social Security beneficiaries will continue to receive checks.
But when the gate closed at Lincoln’s birthplace the impact was already big enough to Connie and Jay Himlie.
“We’re on a mission, but we’re trying to hit every National Park that we can on the way,” Connie Himlie said.
As they road trip from Washington state to Orlando to see family for the holidays, the shutdown comes at a particularly bad time.
“I don’t believe there’s ever a reason to shut the government down,” she said.
And as they stood in the shadow of a memorial to a man who held the country together during the Civil War, they hope today’s leaders can harness that resolve.
“They need to remember who they work for and quit fighting with each other and actually do what they’re in D.C. for,” Jay Himlie said.