Planning to take advantage of the beautiful fall weather with a trip to the Allegheny National Forest?
"We're in the process of closing down our campgrounds and developed facilities, due to the lapse in funding," Allegheny National Forest Supervisor Erin Connelly said on Thursday. "Where there are gates, they will be closed."
Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton
Rimrock overlook area in the Allegheny National Forest has been closed “due to the lapse in federal government funding,” according to a sign posted at the gate. “The facility will reopen once Congress restores funding.”
That means parking areas at Jakes Rocks, Rim Rock and Kinzua Dam are not accessible to the public.
"I just got shut down everywhere," Ed Prince, owner of Allegheny Site Management, a privately-owned corporation that runs recreation sites such as campgrounds and boat launches for the U.S. Forest Service through a special use permit, said on Thursday. "All reservations that are coming in I have to contact everyone and cancel them."
Prince had first thought since his company technically operates under a special use permit that sites within the ANF would remain open. He was notified Wednesday by Connelly that he had 48 hours to shut down sites and contact campers within the ANF and tell them they have to leave.
"We have to drive to every one and talk to everybody on site and tell them they are going to have to leave, refund their money," he said. "It's pretty frustrating...it's cheaper to operate than it would be to shut everything down instantly."
Many of the reservations were for this weekend, Prince said, but in total he estimated canceled reservations were in the hundreds.
The worst part of the situation, he said, is that it "could be cleared up in 48 hours or could be cleared up in a month."
"I"m guessing the damage will be done at that point," he said.
Since the partial shutdown of the federal government on Tuesday, the number of ANF employees has dwindled to fire suppression and law enforcement, including equipment to protect life and property that are considered essential services, according to a U.S. Forest Service memorandum.
Prince said he anticipated good activity on the Columbus Day weekend with people looking to head out for late season camping.
"We currently hold four separate Special Use Permits that cover 19 recreation areas in the Allegheny National Forest. In these contracts, ASM is responsible for all aspects of managing these areas, generally having camp hosts and camp managers. ASM performs maintenance and cleaning for the area and is responsible for the operating expenses. ASM is responsible for supplying all necessary equipment and laborers to achieve this...Inn return, ASM collects all revenues from the area, paying the government agreed-upon percentage of the revenues as fees," according to the ASM website.
State parks such as Chapman Dam, are open for business.
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Acting Secretary Ellen Ferretti also reminded residents that state parks and forests are open for business.
"There is a Pennsylvania state park within 25 miles of every resident offering an array of recreational activities including camping, hiking, fishing, paddling, biking and wildlife watching," Ferretti said in a press release. "Fall is an especially great time to visit a state park or forest, as Pennsylvania has a longer and more varied fall foliage season than any state in the nation."
Pennsylvania has 120 state parks, 20 state forest districts, and entrance to both is free, said Ferretti.