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National parks in Pa. to stay closed

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Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, 11:41 p.m.
 

Pennsylvania won't pay to reopen the 30 national parks within its domain during the federal shutdown even though the Obama administration gave states that option, a spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett's office said on Thursday.

Regardless, plans are moving forward for Gettysburg National Military Park to host events surrounding the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address on Nov. 19, said Gettysburg tourism representatives, who are optimistic the shutdown will end by then.

“We are staying the course,” said Cindy L. Small, spokeswoman for the Gettysburg Foundation, the nonprofit partner of Gettysburg National Military Park. The private foundation operates the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, which are open.

In response to the economic harm the national park closures are having on communities, the Department of the Interior will consider agreements with governors whose states can pay National Park Service personnel, department spokesman Blake Androff said in an email.

As of Thursday, the 10th day of the government shutdown, local economies had lost an estimated $750 million in visitor spending because of the closure of national parks across the country, according to the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, based in Tucson.

Based on 2005-10 data, the group estimates that the closure of the Gettysburg park resulted in a loss of at least 27,397 visitors and $1.8 million in spending in the community in the shutdown's first 10 days.

The Gettysburg park's economic impact was projected to increase to $750 million this year, compared to $605 million in 2011, because of anniversary events, said Carl Whitehill, spokesman for the Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau. The 2012 numbers aren't available yet.

Governors from four states made requests to open all or some of their national parks.

Pennsylvania won't because it is paying for vital safety and health programs, such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, for which the state would usually receive federal funding, said Jay Pagni, spokesman for Corbett's office.

If the shutdown lasts past the end of the month, the state might scale back or suspend programs that rely on federal funding, he said.

The state was allotted $20 billion in federal funding for mandatory and discretionary programs this year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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