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Shutdown could deal blow to NC tourism

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A car passes by fall foliage as it crosses the Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Grandfather Mountain in Linville. (AP Photo/Grandfather Mountain, Jim Morton) A car passes by fall foliage as it crosses the Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Grandfather Mountain in Linville. (AP Photo/Grandfather Mountain, Jim Morton)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -

For North Carolina's tourism industry, it's a really bad time for a federal government shutdown.

In the western part of the state, this is one of the busiest months for the Blue Ridge Parkway. Tourists travel along the scenic roadway to see the fall foliage.

But visitor centers and other staffed facilities are closed, meaning travelers should consider how they plan to do their viewing.

The parkway is open — and the fall colors will peak in the next two weeks. But Tom Hardy, executive director of the Blue Ridge Parkway Association, is worried that some people will think the roadway is shut down.

"You know how bad news is, and unfortunately there are going to be some people who think the parkway is closed and gated. That is a negative," he said.

That could hurt businesses that depend on tourism. Many visitors stay in motels and bed-and-breakfast inns and shop in communities near the parkway.

Nationwide, some 800,000 federal workers were forced off the job Tuesday as a dispute in Congress over President Barack Obama's signature health care law reached a boiling point.

Not only were the effects being felt along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but hundreds of miles to the east in the Outer Banks.

Tuesday was the first day of the popular fall fishing season.

But the National Park Service has locked all the gates that provide anglers a way to drive onto the beach along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

"It is unfortunate," said Cyndy Holda, spokeswoman for the park service's Outer Banks Group. "Our weather has been wonderful this year: Warm and sunny and good. So the timing is not good for our fall fishermen at all."

The Cape Hatteras and Bodie Island lighthouses are closed, as is the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk.

Holda said all staffers reported to work Tuesday morning to put messages on their phones or emails saying they will be out of the office because of the federal government shutdown.

A few employees will remain on the job, but public facilities will remain closed.

"We don't have staff to run them because we can't pay them. ... Beach access will be closed for all the off-road vehicle ramps, and there is no public access to the beaches today," Holda said.

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