Leaf-season shutdown could hurt economy

There are many who live in Rappahannock County who like to boast that “it’s not on the way to anywhere,” but this week, many business owners who depend on visitors — especially during this, the busiest tourism month of the year — are worried about the consequences of a continued closure of the one thing Rappahannock is on the way to: Shenandoah National Park.

Shenandoah National Park’s entrance to Skyline Drive at Thornton Gap was shuttered Tuesday. Before the staff went home Monday and turned off the lights (and phone, and website), it announced: no hiking, no camping, no lodging till further notice. Photos by Matt Wingfield.
Shenandoah National Park’s entrance to Skyline Drive at Thornton Gap was shuttered Tuesday. Before the staff went home Monday and turned off the lights (and phone, and website), it announced: no hiking, no camping, no lodging till further notice. Photos by Matt Wingfield.

The park, which last year released a study that showed it had a $74 million positive economic impact on its neighboring communities in 2011, is “definitely a magnet whose loss of polarity will draw fewer visitors to Rappahannock,” said County Administrator John McCarthy, who points out that meals-and-lodging tax receipts are highest for the quarter that spans October.

Most businesses along Rappahannock’s U.S. 211 main artery rely on traffic to and from the park, the closure of which Monday afternoon (and the furloughing of 200 of its 240 “nonessential” employees) is, of course, part of the nationwide federal government shutdown forced by Congress’s Obamacare-fueled partisan budget impasse. Among those is Gray Ghost Vineyards in Amissville.

“October is probably the biggest month for all wineries in Virginia,” said Cheryl Kellert, the winery’s co-owner, speaking of the same month that Shenandoah National Park has said also accounts for a quarter of its total annual visitors, many of them of the “leaf-peeper” variety. “We do get a lot of traffic year-round that is either going to Skyline Drive or coming back home, and judging by what our visitors tell us, [the closure] could not help but affect us negatively.”

Shenandoah National Park is closed until further notice.
Shenandoah National Park is closed until further notice.

She hopes the shutdown is resolved quickly, she said, and though she and husband Al are on the conservative side in politics, “we’re disappointed . . . Congress is elected to serve us, set the budget, and they’re doing everything but that at this point.”

In Front Royal, meanwhile, the Smithsonian Conservation and Biology Institute (SCBI) cancelled its annual autumn conservation festival this coming weekend. It won’t be rescheduled, a spokesperson said.

“A shot in the foot for tourism in Rappahannock,” said Sperryville designer Kim Bealle, who worked closely with the county’s Office of Tourism for the last five years — and lives on Nethers Road, which she expects will fill up with parked cars despite the closure this weekend, as hikers head around the chains and warnings strung across the Old Rag Mountain trailhead there.

“I don’t know how we’re supposed to have an economic recovery if they keep shutting things down that people depend on for their own economic recovery,” she said. “I think a lot of people who were planning to stay or eat in Rappahannock this weekend are thinking of cancelling their plans. I hope they don’t.”

Roger Piantadosi
About Roger Piantadosi 540 Articles
Former Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi is a writer and works on web and video projects for Rappahannock Media and his own Synergist Media company. Before joining the News in 2009, he was a staff writer, editor and web developer at The Washington Post for almost 30 years.


  1. Hey Tom C.,

    How do you figure Obama shut down The Shenandoah National Park? Explain that and then we’ll talk about
    who is “evil and dark, Godless and selfish.”
    Do you live around here? Just wondering…

    Ben Jones

  2. Shutting down Shenandoah just shows Obama’s true colors, evil and dark, Godless and selfish.
    Poor example, public servant he is not.

  3. If they insist on Obamacare then eliminate all the exemptions for everyone he gave them too! That should include all branches of government period. Also all taxes imposed in this law should not exempt anyone either! How can we get this point across and DONE!
    Frankly, Harry Reid is the idiot in the room here. He is calling everyone else stupid, cowards, etc., but he is the idiot for sure!
    PLEASE, everyone remember this next year when these idiots run for reelection. Spending has got to stop! We need ALL new blood in Washington interested in our nation not special interests!

  4. Hey, my dear Lipstick: the Obama Bus is a GREEN bus! It emits only healthy, life-giving fumes! Even if it runs over you it leaves a very gentle carbon footprint.

  5. Time for the business owners in the area to inform their congressional delegation, the governor, the AAA, the chamber of commerce, and the tv networks that they will be having a barricade-busting party.

  6. Ladies and Gentlemen! Please use this most excellent example of deviciveness, I.e. using the peoples parks to inflict maximum pain, by this administration and apply that same principle to what will happen when they have control over your healthcare! We are truly sorry folks but because the Tea Party won’t support the transfer of power to the Democratic Party and nullify their own votes in Congress the government is shut down and, unfortunately, this will force us to close all dialysis labs until further notice. WAKE UP AMERICA! It’s coming your way, you don’t have to be a prophet to see the writing on the wall.

  7. Tom you sound like you have been too close to the Obama Bus tail pipe. Too many fumes are not good for you.

  8. Why don’t they let volunteers work to keep the parks open? Or let local chambers of commerce or such organizations hire part time workers/security to keep roads or monuments open. Seems to me there are simple solutions to all of these closings, but our “public servants” are going out of their way to do us harm. Perhaps they fear that if people are allowed to start doing these simple things for themselves, they might start wondering why government was involved in the first place.

  9. This is just a ploy to harass voters to get them charged up. There is NO excuse to barricade most monuments. This administration is NOT reansparent, this administration has a fixed agenda, no negotiations, no open dialog. We had family visiting from Florida that wanted to visit the Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, VA, this is a privately funded museum, the gates were open, good sign, but when approaching the museum we were turned back. Museum closed, so what Federal employees are on staff to operate a private museum? Another family from Texas was there and we’re turned back too, they drove up with their father, an 89 year old Marine that fought in the Pacific in WW-II, he could not even see the museum. We recommended they take him to a local restaurant called the Globe and Laurel, owned and operated by a retired Marine who fought in the Pacific too. At least this old warrior wasnt turned away there. Well old warrior it’s time to gear up and storm the beaches once more… In Washington, DC. With your vote…Semper Fi, carry on…

  10. Is the full Obamacare package worth all this grief? C’mon BO, the right thing to do is compromise.

  11. Why is President Obama deliberately and unnecessarily punishing those who wish him to delay Obamacare for a year until things are fixed and EVERYONE has to participate and pay equally? He is driving us out of the ditch only to drive the tow truck off of a cliff and into an on-coming train wreck!

  12. This might be a fun time for some adventurous lawyers to seek reparations for all the families who had their homes and farms taken by the feds. Transfer ownership to former residents as reparation. There is some precedent for this.
    I’ve seen worse claims than this win.

  13. Trace Adkins had a song called, “There’s More of Us(Than There are of Them.}” Simply get 50-200 of your closest friends and march on the parks. See how easy it will be to gain access to YOUR parks.

  14. They are trees on lands owned by you and me. Shut down by a clown would be dictator. Just to clarify that would be O.

    More reports later…

  16. Barricades my a&@!! Several friends and I plans on taking our horses around (or over) their “fences”. We hadn’t planned on doing that this weekend, in fact, some of us had out of town plans that we’ve cancelled just so we could make the ride. We also plan on spending a Pant-load of money in Rappahannock County while we’re there. There’s a great little vacation ranch called Ft Valley Ranch where you can trail ride, stay in bunk-houses overnight see the leaves in a truly beautiful way on one of their rides up the mountain. Graves Mountain Lodge also has trail riding and overnight facilities, all near skyline drive. There are also some great lil mom & pop places to stay and lovely bed and breakfasts. Go to Massanutten , Wintergreen, go to Front Royal, drive Route 11,340, 211 there are beautiful mountain views all thru the Shenandoah valley and plenty of mountains to play in on both sides. Some of the less traveled mountain roads aren’t easy to find but then, the adventure is part of the fun and the views are breathtaking. DO NOT let this pathetic show of purely political theater keep you home. There are magnificent mountain views on Route 9 between Berkeley Springs and Paw paw WV and other points west. I know there’s only 1 Skyline Drive but in the meantime, don’t let them rain on your parade which is PRECISELY the intent of this admins temper tantrum. DO get out there and support these communities that depend on this time of year for their bread & apple butter. I live in No VA and will be on the road (horse trailer in tow) by daybreak. Hope Grey Ghost serves breakfast! :) (love their Riesling!!)
    We Virginians are a resilient bunch and Virginia is a feast for the senses especially in the fall. Barricades, HA!! Cya on the mountain, folks!

  17. SteveP, where did you get the crazy idea that Obama decides who is essential??? That is left to each agency (and Congressman by the way). I liked the news story the other day about the few Congressmen who decided that their entire staff was essential, so not only do they still get paid, but none of their “people” are out of a job either. Not all did this, so I say kudos to those who did lay off some of their staffs.

  18. 2012 October we traveled to Charlottesville VA to visit our youngest nephew who was attenting The Unversity of Virginia. We visited the Blue Ridge Parkway. The colors were amazing. We spend under $500 round trip.

  19. I will go out of my way to support businesses in that area. Grey Ghost…your Riesling ROCKS by the way. The money spent to intentionally make a negative impact is backfiring on this admin, I assure you. I’m hearing it from others. I’m a Libertarian who’s tried to keep an open mind but this display of bad political theater from this tantrum throwing admin is despicable. Wiring the barricades at the WWII memorial?? Barricading the mall? Seriously?? Talk about looking desperate! Maybe pathetic is a better description. I’ve never seen anything like it. Have they forgotten who they work for? I live in No Va and will be doiing a LOT of shopping in the Rappahannock area this weekend. I just hope this wakes people up once and for all.

  20. oh woe is us. why wouldn’t we celebrate that, to some extent, the process works? Why wouldn’t we celebrate that, to some extent, we can legally hold our government accountable for the way it handles our money?

    what, you think a little inconvenience is too high a price to pay for self government?


  21. Thank you, Barack Obama and Harry Reid, for trying to shut down the country in a whiny fit, simply because you can’t get your way.

    The Republican House keeps passing bills that would allow various parts of the government to be funded, the Democrat Senate keeps swatting them down.

  22. In the 16 other government shutdowns in my life time never, not once has a National Park been shut down.

    The Amateur in Chief is a petty man.

  23. Have been planning on visiting Shenandoah area. Was planning on leaving the Philadelphia area on Monday. Will be travelling with our Boston Terrier. Can anyone tell me what will be opened in “dog friendly” hotels? People restaurants???? I am sorry that this has happened to innocent people.

  24. Just think about this for a moment. Obama gets to decide who is essential and who isn’t. At this park he decided that 200 were not essential and 40 were. 40 could keep working while 200 went home. If he can decide 40 are essential, why not all 240? If children will die because the NIH shut down cancer studies, who’s fault is that? Would anyone complain if he had instead chosen to say that research to save children was essential? Why not just stop this nonsense today and say every government employee and project is essential. If he gets to choose, what’s stopping him? Seems like the ranger was right who said they were told by the administration to “make life as difficult for people as we can.” Obama and the Democrats couldn’t care less about your economy. This is just a game to them and they think they are winning.

  25. Wow, how do the trees know that the season is shut down??
    That’s funny, I have trees in my back yard that change color JUST FINE.

  26. The closure of national parks which has not been done before during Government shut downs can be termed “OBAMA’S SPITE AGAINST THE NATION”

  27. C’mon. It’s an outdoor spot. See a trail, take a trail. Do you really need a ranger on hand to enjoy what God made?

  28. Really makes you comfortable with the Government taking over and running our Health Insurance and Healthcare doesn’t it? I read where a Park Ranger in DC was quoted as saying angrily that “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. Its disgusting”. I’ve never met a Park Ranger who wasn’t apolitical on the job. They are all pleasant dedicated people enjoying helping others enjoy our national treasures. How sad that the National Park Service and Administration uses them and puts them in these situations to play silly childish games.
    It’s time to give all the National Parks back to the states so they will be open when an administration is trying to play games by punishing We The People. They would probably be better run. When the kids are misbehaving, you take the toys away. It IS truly disgusting.

  29. LOL, here is a novel idea.

    Don’t spend all the money to print signs, send men and up up barricades…

    Do nothing and let the tourists just park int he lot if they want to…

    Oh, wait no, i forgot… The purpose is to PUNISH the American people for having the AUDACITY to question the liberal agenda.

  30. I went up to the Old Rag parking lot this morning to confirm that it is, indeed, blocked off. Two people were sitting outside the lot in their cars, looking perplexed and consulting their maps. Here’s what got my attention, though. There is a laminated, color sign on both of the gates that says that the park is closed due to the government shut down. Photos in the paper show signs at the entrance, too. Who is paying for all of the signs?!! And, how many have been printed across America? What an outrageous waste of money…

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