Vt. destinations wrestle with federal shutdown confusion

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October 3, 2013, 7:01 pm
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(NECN: Jack Thurston, Woodstock, Vt.) - Several tourist destinations in Vermont are scrambling to tell visitors they remain open, amid the partial shutdown of the federal government that has left national parks closed.

Jill and Derek Hall, tourists visiting Woodstock, Vt. from the southern coast of England, were shut out of visiting the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park. The mansion and grounds are closed because of the partial shutdown of the federal government.

"You expect to visit the places like the park, and if you can't get in, it seems such a shame," Jill Hall said.

However, the couple was happy to be able to visit the similarly-named Billings Farm and Museum across the street from the closed site. That destination is completely open for business, because it's funded through a private foundation and not the federal government.

"It is confusing," acknowledged Susan Plump of Billings Farm and Museum. "We're very sorry that they're closed, and we hope they open soon, so it won't be as confusing going forward."

Plump told New England Cable News that many folks have called or dropped by, incorrectly believing the farm may be closed. The destination also includes exhibits showing what agriculture was like in 19th century Vermont.

"We do hope visitors will still come to Billings Farm and Museum," she said.

While Plump could not say for sure if anyone actually stayed home because of the mix-ups, she said she suspects a reason for the confusion may be the fact the locally-run site and the federally-run site share the same parking lot and visitors' center.

"I think this weekend will be a test," Plump said. "We have our big pumpkin and apple celebration, and of course, the foliage means this is probably our busiest time of year."

Jen Butson of the Vt. Dept. of Tourism & Marketing said state officials are also trying to ensure guests know state parks and state-operated historic sites are unaffected by the federal shutdown. Those unaffected historic sites include the popular birthplace of President Calvin Coolidge in Plymouth Notch.

"The state is canvassed with events and festivals that bring in the tourists," Butson said. "It's really gorgeous right now."

Vermont has good reason to push that message. During the fall, Butson said 3.57-million visitors come here, dropping $460 million. That is more than a quarter of year-round tourism spending in the small state.

"We're reaching out to people on social media and telling them, 'By all means, come visit; it's not shut, we are open!'" Butson beamed. "The state is welcoming tourists and travelers."

For more information on visiting Vermont during foliage season, visit this website.

Tags: barack Obama, congress, vermont, Senate, President Obama, Democrats, House of Representatives, John Boehner, Republicans, furloughs, Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, government shutdown, shutdown, Jack Thurston, Woodstock, derek hall, jen butson, Jill Hall, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park, Billings Farm and Museum, Susan Plump, Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing
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