Federal shutdown shutters parks, idles workers across Georgia

The federal budget impasse shuttered national parks and other facilities across Georgia on Saturday, while negotiators in Washington tried without success to hash out a deal.

Parts of the federal government shut down at midnight Friday amid a standoff between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats over funding for a security wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. The Senate adjourned without a deal Saturday afternoon, and the standoff is expected to last until at least next Thursday, when senators have their next actual session.

The shutdown idled thousands of federal workers and forced others — including air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration workers at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport — to work without pay.

An airport spokesman said all operations were normal, with no impact from the shutdown.

On Saturday, visitors to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta found much of it closed. Though they could wander around the grounds, they could not view many exhibits or tour the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.

“Because of a lapse in federal appropriations, this national park facility is closed for the safety of visitors and park resources,” said a sign on the visitor’s center door.

Javaris Green Sr. of St. Petersburg, Fla., read the sign, confused. He and his wife, Kenya, were driving their five children to Tennessee and hadn’t heard about the government shutdown.

“When we come through Atlanta, we always try to stop at the King Center,” Javaris said. He pronounced the shutdown “stupid” and criticized elected officials.

“I think they’re being pretty catty,” he said. “They get their feelings hurt, and it affects everybody.”

Paul Braga brought his family from Brazil for skiing in North Carolina and other adventures. He stopped in Atlanta because he wanted to teach his children about King.

“They were so excited about it,” Braga said.

They settled for a stroll around the grounds and a few pictures.

Doug and Joanna Christiansen of California also were caught off guard by the shutdown. They were driving to Charleston to visit his mother and decided to visit some historical sites along the way.

“I knew it was coming,” Doug said of the government shutdown. “I was just thinking it wouldn’t affect this.”

The situation was much the same at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.

Hikers, runners and dog walkers enjoyed its nearly 3,000 acres just like they do on any nice Saturday. Parking was impacted slightly and anyone needing to make a pit stop was out of luck.

Brian Jory showed up a little before 8 a.m. and found a traffic jam as cars tried unsuccessfully to pull into the main entrance.

“It was a little chaotic,” he said. There was room in the overflow lot around the corner, but the park’s visitors center, where people could usually stop in to get a drink or use the facilities, were closed.

Jory reacted with a shrug, a little disappointed but not terribly shocked that lawmakers couldn’t find compromise.

“There’s too much division and hatred in politics,” he said.

Georgia’s nine military bases and the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention won’t be affected much by the shutdown, as Congress previously passed spending bills for the Pentagon and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Saturday marked the third federal government shutdown in less than a year. Key services like Social Security checks and food stamps will continue during the shutdown. But an estimated 800,000 federal workers nationwide won’t be paid until Congress and the president approve a new budget.

Georgia is home to more than 71,000 civilian federal employees – about 4 percent of the federal workforce.