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Closed until further notice

A lone law enforcement official on Tuesday advises a would-be visitor to Assateague National Seashore Park that all facilities are closed because of the federal government shutdown. (Clara Vaughn)

(Oct. 4, 2013) Assateague Island National Seashore greeted visitors with signs flashing “FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN” and “NATIONAL SEASHORE CLOSED” on Tuesday, in the wake of the federal government shutdown.

Several local agencies closed until further notice while others faced unsure prospects for the future as the U.S. government closed.

Barricades blocked the road to the Assateague’s National Seashore as one of its few remaining employees redirected traffic to the State Park beach area, which remains open for a $4 fee.

With excellent waves Tuesday, the State Park bustled with surfers and other beachgoers who were blocked from the national seashore, the park’s Acting Manager James Barbely said.

That could create a problem tomorrow, however, as up to 7,000 bicyclists are expected to converge in the park as part of the Sea Gull Century bike race, new Park Manager Angela Baldwin said Thursday.

“This year, since we only are going to have our (state park) area for access, we’ve re-routed where the bicycles are going,” Baldwin said. “We’re expecting a lot of congestion.”

She advised visitors to avoid Assateague until after 12 p.m. Saturday.

Campers at the national park were given 48 hours to leave, Barbely said, and only outflowing traffic was allowed into the camping area. In addition, all facilities, including restrooms and water were expected to be shutdown on Tuesday.

Scheduled school field trips and the start of the hunting season at the national seashore would be on hold during the shutdown, said an employee, who did not want to be named. Most of the National Park Service’s Assateague staff of around 40 was sent home, with just a few law enforcement officers and maintenance staff remaining, he said.

To the south, on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, NASA Wallops Flight Facility also sent home workers.

“Due to the gov’t shutdown, all public NASA activities/events are cancelled or postponed until further notice. Sorry for the inconvenience,” read the last @NASALADEE tweet. A prolonged shutdown could disturb scheduled launches from the base.

Other area agencies were uncertain how the shutdown might affect them if it continued.

“We really don’t know how this will affect or impact us,” said Alicia Robinson, Planning Coordinator for SHORE UP! Inc., the group that oversees federally funded Head Start.

With 16 centers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the program hosts 1,069 children of up to five years of age and employs more than 300 people, she said.

Other groups, such as the Assateague Coastal Trust and Maryland Coastal Bays, will see no direct effect, but could suffer from the closing of their federal partners.

“The downside for us is that our federal partners at (the) EPA, FWS, NPS and USGS can’t do their good work to protect the coastal bays,” Executive Director for Maryland Coastal Bays Dave Wilson said.

The U.S. Coast Guard, like other branches of the military, will not be affected by the closure.

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