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As the nation endures a government shutdown going into its fifth day, tourists are changing plans, and it’s not clear whether that will be good or bad for California, which is now depending on the leisure and hospitality sector to generate jobs amid lingering unemployment in the post-recession era.
The shutdown packs an instant punch, Caroline Beteta, president and chief executive officer of Visit California, said in a statement.
“Our national parks, public lands and surrounding gateway areas are major contributors to these figures and the effects of this shutdown will be felt immediately in these communities,” she warned.
California visitors spend $292 million each day, $12.1 million every hour, or $202,000 every minute, according to Visit California. Whether that spending will leave or shift to state parks and other recreation areas remains to be seen.
On the first day of the shutdown, one of California State Parks’ local districts took at least 10 calls from people who had booked special events such as weddings and filming at the national parks, according to Craig Sap, Angeles Superintendent for California State Parks.
“They’re directing them to us, so we’re getting many calls from people who’ve had events canceled,” he said. “That’s been a significant upswing in those people doing reservations for our properties. We’re gladly taking all we can.”
Wedding permit fees at the state parks are $150 and up, depending on the wedding party size and whether a monitor is needed, Sap said.
Because weekends are when the state parks get really busy, officials will be monitoring their visitor numbers this weekend, the first since the shutdown, Sap said. He noted that people looking to access Point Mugu State Park from the Conejo Valley who typically enter through a portal on national park property, but they might be surprised to see it closed.
“They now have to go all the way to the coast side, so we should see an increase in visitation on the coast side,” he said. “The word’s out. All of our employees know about it. Our rangers are aware, and we’ll be assisting the National Park Service if they have an emergency or an issue.”
Thousand Oaks resident Laurie Deasy hikes regularly with a group that typically hits trails in the Santa Monica Mountains, but they now are planning their next hikes in state parks.
“So we’re not breaking the rules right now,” she said.
Deasy’s group, which can be as large as 20 people, usually enjoys lunch at area restaurants after their hikes. Other hikers are known to head for surrounding wine tasting rooms, a superintendent from the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area told The Star last year.
In Ventura County, combined visitor spending from the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and Channel Islands National Park was $47 million in 2010, according to a study by Michigan State University for the National Park Service. In addition, the two parks supported 600 jobs. The survey looked at spending at the parks together with the trickle-down effects on communities within a 60-mile radius of each.
(c)2013 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.).
Visit Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.) at www.vcstar.com.
Distributed by MCT Information Services.