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Harpers Ferry effected by federal government shutdown

By Staff | Jan 4, 2019

Harpers Ferry as viewed from Maryland Heights. Visitors can still walk through the National Park, but amenities are not available due to the government shutdown. Toni Milbourne

SHEPHERDSTOWN — The continued shutdown of the U.S. Government includes the closure of the county’s national parks. The closures include Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, however, the logistics of at least part of the park falling within the town limits of Harpers Ferry make it unique from some other parks around the country.

While the National Park Service is not officially open, meaning there are no shuttle buses provided and no public restrooms, the shops in Harpers Ferry are open for business and the area is accessible to visitors.

Paid parking is at a premium in the lower town area, however, and the lack of the shuttle service by the park service is a deterrent to many who would normally visit the area.

Currently, the effects of the shutdown on local businesses situated immediately next to park service property is not known. However, should the shutdown continue for any significant amount of time, it could likely impact those businesses which benefit from park visitors.

“It’s not as bad as it was in 2013, that happened at the height of tourist season in October,” said Cindi Dunn, owner of The Vintage Lady in downtown Harpers Ferry. “But still we felt the impact and heard negative comments about visitors not being able to enjoy our national park during a time when many are on vacation and visiting our area.”

Martha Ehlman, owner of Tenfold Fair Trade, concurred with Dunn’s comments.

“Tenfold’s sales numbers are not too far off from last year for this last week but it’s hard to tell for us as we had just moved into our new location last year and it’s been evolving,” Ehlman said. “The three week long shut down in 2013 we were down by almost $10,000 from the same period in 2012.”

According to Ehlman, she does see the effect in the number of visitors to the park.

“There are no shuttle buses and no restroom available to our customers, so there have been fewer visitors than if the park were open,” Ehlman said. “We’ve had to rent port-a-pots and have to maintain them. The town [Harpers Ferry] was gracious enough to help us out financially with this endeavor.”

At some parks around the country, visitors are not even able to enter park grounds; however, at Harpers Ferry, visitors can still come. They do not, however, have access to park amenities or admission to park facilities and museums. They can still traverse park grounds, but must travel the area on their own, rather than via park service shuttles.

According to the website for the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, with the shutdown, there will be no road maintenance or trash pick up in addition to the suspension of shuttle service. The park bookstore, however, does remain open, at least for now.

Visitors to the park are instructed to call 911 for emergency situations, as park service personnel may not be available. In addition, the park’s website and other social media will not be updated.