Proponents of St. Marks say that visitors miss the full hiding experience because the visitor center and gift shop are closed because they can not get guide books, maps, and advice from counselors and volunteers. | Bruce Ritchie / POLITICO
By BRUCE RITCHIE
Updated 01/14/2019 17:36 EST
TALLAHASSEE – People continue to visit national parks, forests and nature reserves despite the closure of a federal government, but they do not buy T-shirts and souvenirs because gift shops are closed.
That costs the non-profit organizations that run these stores more than $ 2 million in revenue from lost sales and visitor programs, according to a survey by the Public Lands Alliance. More than 400 non-profit organizations have been laid off, put on non-active or forced to leave without leave.
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The shops with shutters are a small part of the shutdown, but that has a big financial impact on the groups that support federal parks and airports, especially in places such as Florida, where tourism picks up again in the mild winter months.
In the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast, the visitors' center has closed since December 24, a shutdown costing $ 15,000, said Susan Cason, chairman of the volunteer group that runs the store. Profit from the store is used for nature and educational programs, including renting buses to bring school children to the hiding place.
"Everyone who comes into the city, to the shelter, stops at the visitor center and buys something," said Cason. "They can not do that now."
The director of Public Lands Alliance, Dan Puskar, said that non-profit organizations might lose more employees if the shutdown drags. And money that would have been collected for programs would be lost.
"Nobody in Congress is talking about making these organizations whole again," Puskar POLITICO said on Monday. "The fact that you were not allowed to sell at St. Marks for three weeks means that you never get that income back."
Proponents of St. Marks say that visitors miss the full hiding experience because the visitor center and gift shop are closed because they can not get guide books, maps, and advice from counselors and volunteers.
Those tourists are at risk to glimpse the rare American flamingo or the vermilion catcher, who have delighted visitors in recent weeks. They can not go to the St. Marks lighthouse on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico either.
"This is crazy," Cason said about the closure of the government. "It is beyond reason that we are closed."
CORRECTION: an earlier version of this report misspelled the name of Dan Puskar.