Law enforcement rangers with the National Park Service are among the few employees left at Hampton National Historic Site in Towson, because the government shutdown has forced the scenic park and historic mansion to close to all visitors.
“The park is closed, even for dog walkers,” Ranger Vince Vaise, director of interpretation at Hampton, said Wednesday. “Even if you live right next door, you cannot go on the property. … We have law enforcement rangers that are there to provide for the safety of the resource. As far as interpretive rangers, they’re not there.”
Vaise said the government shutdown, which began Tuesday and has no set end date, has already had short- and long-term impacts on the park and its staff. Over 100 students were scheduled to take field trips to the park this week, Vaise said, and a workshop for 20 teachers who were planning trips to the site scheduled for Wednesday was canceled as well.
Once the fall ends and schools start to focus on the holiday season, Vaise said they typically don’t have time to visit the park anymore.
“Realistically, we’ll probably have to reschedule a lot of them for the spring,” Vaise said.
Additionally, the park’s staff had already begun preparations for the Holidays at Hampton, the annual recreation of Christmas throughout the centuries at the mansion.
“Every day that this continues is one less planning day we have to devote to that,” Vaise said.
When the sequester hit over the summer, the grounds of the mansion were still open, but tours of the mansion and historic buildings were only offered on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Under those circumstances, the visitors who are expected in the coming weeks as foliage season starts would have been allowed on the grounds. But as long as the shutdown continues, Vaise said the autumn tourists would be turned away.
However, construction on a new visitor contact station and entrance road on the grounds will continue, Vaise said, because the project was funded in last year’s budget.