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Tourism, agencies in region hurt by shutdown

The USS Constitution: closed to tourists. The Faneuil Hall Visitor Center: padlocked. The Minute Man National Historic Park, the Bunker Hill Monument, Acadia National Park: All shuttered until further notice.

As the looming threat of a widespread federal government shutdown grew from a probability to certainty, federally funded agencies and organizations in the Boston area prepared to close their doors or furlough employees Tuesday, a grim procedure that will probably have immediate repercussions for tourists and for some businesses and organizations around the region.

Top tourist destinations were likely to close Tuesday, but city departments, local nonprofits, and university research centers in the Boston area were facing a different calculation. Officials at agencies that rely partially on federal funds were nervously crunching numbers to figure out just how long they could last in the face of a federal freeze-out.


"It's going to be a kind of ripple effect," said Sean Hennessey, spokesman for the National Park Service. "There's a significant economic impact that our national parks have in their communities."

Some federal agencies providing essential services remain unaffected for now. The John Joseph Moakley US Courthouse will probably remain open and fully functioning for at least the next two weeks, and Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals will largely remain up and running.

Governor Deval Patrick said Monday that he had a conference call with President Obama and other governors around the country to discuss the potential ramifications of the shutdown. Patrick barely held back his disdain, calling the shutdown "an avoidable and foolish thing."

"We need a certain level of reliable and responsible government spending to have a strong economy, and the hard right doesn't seem to get that or doesn't seem to care," he said.

Jack Sullivan, Boston's chief of staff for intergovernmental relations, said the shutdown will not have much of an immediate impact on city services, but that could change within weeks, especially when it comes to ramping up flu season inoculations and ensuring residents receive heating assistance.


"In the short term, we believe we can get by, but as this drags out, it becomes more problematic," Sullivan said.

John J. Drew, president of Action for Boston Community Development, Boston's antipoverty agency, said the organization will not shutter its doors Tuesday. But he said the agency can only stave off a shutdown for a short while before it runs out of federal funds to provide assistance for heating, child care, affordable housing, and free meals.

"I'm going to stay open for as long as I can," Drew said. "If we're not here, where are these people going to go?"

At the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 100 of the organization's roughly 900 employees will go on furlough. On Monday, they scrambled to wrap up projects or parcel out their responsibilities to colleagues, said David Aguilar, the center's spokesman.

Some research programs for NASA will probably be put on hold, he said.

"What concerns me is that people are not going to be paid, and they may not be paid for the time off, and this is not their doing at all," Aguilar said. "It affects a lot of people who have mouths to feed and mortgages to pay. They're the victims of this political dance that's going on."

Employees of the National Park Service received instructions to come into work for four hours Tuesday.


There will be no guided tours on the Freedom Trail or the Black Heritage Trail. Though some of Faneuil Hall will be open, the visitor's center will be dark.

"You won't be able to get your map or brochures or ask questions," Hennessey said.

Freedom Trail walkers will have little reason to cross the river: In addition to closing the section of the Charlestown Navy Yard that houses the USS Constitution and its companion museum, the Bunker Hill Monument will be closed. Although the African Meeting House is a National Park Service historic site, the building will remain open and under the operation of the Museum of African American History staff.

Officials at national parks have already begun the process of putting hundreds of square miles of land on total lockdown: Starting Tuesday, visitors have 48 hours to vacate campgrounds.

Though national park staff will be closing parking lots and federal roads leading to trailheads, Len Bobinchock, deputy superintendent of Acadia National Park, said that with hundreds of miles of trails and entrances into the woods, it will be difficult to prevent people from illicit hiking, a dangerous prospect.

The timing, Bobinchock said, could not have been worse. It is prime leaf-peeping season.

Lou Sideris, chief of planning and communications for Minute Man National Historic Park, said the site has had to cancel a slew of school field trips, and he is dreading tourists who make the trip to Concord, only to find a "closed" sign on the parking lot gates.


On Monday morning at the park's Old North Bridge, packed tour buses brought a stream of visitors to enjoy a perfect fall day. Many said they were angry at the prospect of the national parks closing and said it was a sign of political dysfunction.

"That's horrible," said Laraine Packard, 71, visiting from Colorado. "The parks are for the people. The government is supposed to be for the people, too. But it isn't."