Threat of government shutdown worries nature lovers on Maine State Park Day

A government shutdown could mean your favorite state park will close.

CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Thousands of Mainers got to experience a warm, but foggy Sunday at Maine's State Parks - for free.

It's an annual Father's Day tradition - but this year, the threat of government shutdown means a summer at the parks isn't a guarantee.

“We keep these places open for the people of Maine to use and visitors coming from out of state,” said Two Lights State Park manager Kurt Shoener. “This is our tourism economy.”

It's a staple of a Maine summer: the beautiful coastline, tourists, and appreciating nature.

But for Summer 2017 - the future is unclear.

Maine State Legislators are still at odds over the state's budget.

They've been in debate for weeks - and if they don't come to an agreement by the time the current budget runs out on June 30 - the government goes into shutdown.

This doesn't just affect Augusta, though - presumably, all non-essential state services would be closed.

“There's so many things will come to a halt not to mention the tourism, state parks and all the things,” said State Senator Bill Diamond (D). “This would start July fourth weekend. The list goes on and on.”

In past government shutdowns, state parks have been able to remain partially staffed for safety reasons.

Obviously – it’s impossible to put a fence around nature and keep people out. “Even though a park closes, people still come,” said Kurt Shoener. “There are essential safety rules that we serve and we have to be available if anyone has an emergency.”

The looming possibility of a shutdown has State Park-lovers frustrated.

“It's like a public safety thing and it's a cleanliness thing,” said Old Orchard Beach resident Stephanie Dodier, who was visiting Two Lights. “If there's no want to keep them accountable, people are just going to throw trash everywhere.”

Dodier says she wants lawmakers to put their differences aside and meet in the middle.

For her family - Maine's parks hold precious memories.

“We are here [at Two Lights] for Father's Day,” she said. “Our dad passed away in January so we are here for him. This is something he would have wanted to do and he loved camping, and he loved nature, and he loved state parks and stuff and just not being able to do that...It's kind of a slap in the face to people and what they like and in some cases people's memories.”

The new budget needs to be in place by June 30 in order to avoid shutdown.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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