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National parks on brink of desertion

All 401 National Park Service sites will be closed if the government shuts down

CNN News Wire | 9/30/2013, 2:29 p.m.
Yellowstone National Park CNN

Never mind that visit to the Statue of Liberty in New York City. Forget visiting Independence Hall in Philadelphia. And that hiking adventure at Yellowstone National Park? It might not happen.

If Congress doesn’t pass a spending bill by midnight tonight, many travelers will quickly start feeling the impact of the impasse.

While essential air security and traffic control operations won’t be impeded in the event of a government shutdown, travelers visiting the country’s national parks and other tourist attractions will find the gates shuttered and the doors locked.

All 401 National Park Service sites, which collectively average about 715,000 visitors per day in October, will be closed, according to a park service spokeswoman. (Guests staying in campgrounds and on-site hotels will be given 48 hours to leave.) The Smithsonian’s 19 museums and galleries and the National Zoo will also turn visitors away.

Is it safe to fly?

Your airport security personnel are considered essential, so please continue to follow Transportation Security Administration rules about liquids, shoes and other restrictions when heading to the airport.

Air traffic controllers, some safety inspectors and other essential employees will “continue working in order to maintain the safety of the national airspace system” in the event of a shutdown, said the Federal Aviation Administration, in an e-mailed statement. “Safety is our top priority.”

Other FAA projects, including facility security inspections, routine personnel security background investigations and development of the next generation of air traffic control technology, will be placed on hold.

What if you’re waiting on a passport?

If you’re waiting on a passport, how long that wait will last depends on where the passport agency is located. Passport services, because they are funded by other revenue, are generally “unaffected by a government shutdown,” according to a U.S. Department of State spokesperson.

There’s just one possible catch: If the passport office is located within a government building that has been shut down, passport approvals may be affected. Bottom line: Check with your passport office Monday before close of business.

If you need a visa

Because consular services at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world are largely funded by application fees, not annual appropriations, visa applications filed by foreigners wanting to enter the United States will continue to be processed, according to the state department spokesperson.

Overseas impact

Even those visitors trying to pay their respects at American military cemeteries overseas will feel the impact. The Normandy American Cemetery and 23 other overseas cemeteries operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission will be closed to the public for the duration of the shutdown, according to the commission’s contingency plans.

“The Normandy American Cemetery presents a special case, as visitors have access to the cemetery via the unfenced approaches from the beach, according to the plan. “Visitors will be asked to leave, but confrontation will be avoided.”

CNN’s Laura Koran contributed to this story.

Katia Hetter | CNN