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Michigan’s tourism industry was damaged today as a federal government shutdown began.
“We’re tourists, and we’re from Montana, and we came all the way to Michigan to see this,” an angry Gloria Kessel said this morning as her vehicle was blocked by orange barrels and tape preventing her from visiting Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore’s Miner’s Castle. “This stinks.”
Yet, this morning, it was just dawning on tourists that the shutdown could wreck their personal plans. Car after car made the 10 mile trek from Munising to the entrance to Miner’s Castle, only to be turned away. The park visitors center was closed. Orange cones blocked entrance to Munising Falls (although some enterprising visitors parked on the street and walked in anyway.)
Downtown at the Dogpatch restaurant, local residents, too, were shocked to find out that the park was actually closed. At Glen’s supermarket, residents shook their heads as they talked about it. At a Hiawatha National Forest campground in nearby Christmas, campers were oblivious to the turmoil in Washington. But they were getting a hint.
“Somebody came by to tell us this morning that we owed $5 and that we’d have to leave soon due to some parks being closed,” said Minnesota resident Mike Sharroc, who folded his tent as he and his wife, Suzanne, prepared to leave.
Sleeping Bear, Pictured Rocks, Isle Royale, and the Hiawatha and Ottawa National Forests all are in the district of Tea Party conservative U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek (R) of the vast 1st Congressional District, which covers the entire UP and northern regions of the Lower Peninsula. He voted with his Republican colleagues in the House on Monday in the Congressional stalemate.
Asked Tuesday about the tourism impact of the shutdown on his district, Benishek spokesman Kyle Bonini emailed a statement that did not mention tourism.
“We will continue to do our best to help any constituents in need,” it said.
Pictured Rocks, Sleeping Bear and Isle Royale together get more than 2 million visitors a year and employ hundreds of people in the parks and surrounding businesses. Sleeping Bear had more than 397,000 visitors in August alone, and Pictured Rocks had 117,000.
Benishek’s district also includes the Keweenaw National Historic Park in Calumet.
“I’m expecting my furlough notice within the hour, then I’m going home,” said Mike Pflaum, park superintendent this morning.
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