How metro Atlanta parks could be disrupted by government shutdown 

The holidays are an uncertain time, even more so when the federal government might shut down.

The nation faces a midnight deadline to avoid a partial shutdown caused by a lack of funding the federal government. If a deal isn’t reached, services at many federal agencies could be disrupted, including national parks during the busy holiday seasons.

The rub is President Donald Trump’s want for Democrats in the Senate to approve his $5.7 billion demand for U.S.-Mexico border wall money.

The noisy back-and-forth in Washington D.C. has led to little concrete information from the quiet National Parks Service sites in Georgia.

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reached out to several of Georgia’s NPS sites to see their plans Friday afternoon.

James Pratt at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, one of the most-visited parks in America, said that the park was currently open but wouldn’t say anything about the potential shutdown.

Kennesaw Mountain, along with Martin Luther King Jr.’s childhood home, were closed during the government shutdown earlier this year in February.

The Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area will remain open even if there’s a shutdown because it isn’t a federal park. (Courtesy of Arabia Mountain Heritage Area)

In general, there will be no visitor services during a shutdown. So if you’re at a campsite with a bathroom, don’t expect it to be cleaned. And if a facility or area is locked or secured during non-business hours, it will probably be locked or secured during a shutdown. 

That February shutdown came after Democrats sought extended protections for “Dreamers” — or immigrants who were brought here as children without authorization and previously shielded from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. There was also talk of funding a border wall, a central Trump campaign issue, back then.

On Friday afternoon, the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains was still open. Acting superintendent Charles Sellars told the AJC he wouldn’t speculate on the shutdown and is waiting on Congress and the president to make a decision.

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Should a shutdown happen, he said, the site will be closed.

“Anything that we would have scheduled beyond midnight would be cancelled,” he said.

That includes the 1 p.m. walking tours the park holds Saturdays and Sundays.

“We are not going to speculate on any changes in government operations,” said Rebecca Karcher with at MLK Jr. National Historic Park.

But, in general, she said, the park would be closed in the event of a government shutdown.

In case you are looking for somewhere to stretch your legs during a shutdown, try Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area. That’s because it isn’t a federal park.

The area is run by the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance and the park is owned by DeKalb County, Mera Cardenas, executive director for the alliance, told The AJC on Friday.

“It is affiliated with the National Park Service and has a federal designation, but local the non-profit runs the heritage area,” Cardenas said.

The park is generally open from dawn to dusk.

Tamar Hallerman, the AJC’s reporter in D.C., contributed to this story.

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