By Kayla Carter
Campers might have been the first to feel the local effects of the partial government shutdown.
But veterans hoping to visit their memorials in the nation’s capital might not be far behind.
There was no sign of visitors enjoying leisure time at Carden’s Bluff Campground and the Shook Branch Picnic Tuesday afternoon, recreational areas in the federally owned Cherokee National Forest,
Signs posted at each entrance alerted visitors to their closures, which were caused by Tuesday’s shutdown.
Question about how the shutdown will affect Cherokee National Forest Watauga Ranger Station employees was answered Tuesday morning with an automated voice message: “Thank you for calling the Cherokee National Forest in upper East Tennessee. Due to the federal shutdown this office will be closed until further notice.”
And any other questions media could normally ask National Forest spokesman Terry McDonald also went unanswered, again with an automated message: “I am not in the office at this time. I am on furlough due to the lapse in federal government funding.”
McDonald also gave out his email address to callers, but even that method of communication would not result in answered questions.
“Please note that I do not have access to email or voicemail due to the lapse in funding,” McDonald said. “I look forward to returning your message once funding has been restored.”
But one of the most touching impacts of the shutdown is still days away.
Should the shutdown last more than a few days, Northeast Tennessee Honor Flight President Edie Lowry may have to make a heart-breaking decision to postpone the organization’s trip to see the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 12. Two Carter County veterans are among the 26 planning to go on the trip scheduled to depart on Oct. 11.
“There are a lot of mixed emotions right now,” Lowry said. “There’s a huge decision we will have to make if this is not going to be settled within the next few days. We won’t cancel, we will just postpone.”