'It's self-serving': Metro-east tourists not pleased with government shutdown

News-DemocratSeptember 30, 2013 


Visitors to the National Great Rivers Museum Monday hoped that legislators reach a compromise instead of shutting down the government.

Bob and Sandy Gunter of Deer Creek were in St. Louis for Bob's business meeting and a Chicago Cubs-St. Louis Cardinals game over the weekend. They heard a piece on PBS that mentioned the museum, and decided to spend their free day there.

But the museum is one of the places that is set to close as the government shuts down. Federal recreation areas, such as campgrounds at lakes, and tourist-type facilities, such as the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, also would close during a shutdown.

"I think they need to quit being so stubborn," Sandy Gunter said. "To put everyone in the country, and really everyone in the whole world, in a mess because they're against Obamacare ... it's self-serving."

Bob Gunter is president of his postal workers' union, and has been told by his contact at the National Labor Relations Board that once the government shuts down, so do the federal labor mediators.

"It's more important than just parks and recreation," Gunter said. "We like to go to places like this ... but it's going to have a big effect on the economy."

Gunter said he thinks a government shutdown will affect more people than they realize.

"A lot of things we take for granted will be shut down and will affect us," he said.

For retirees Bob and Carol Moore of Collinsville, it may not affect them personally, since Social Security checks wll keep coming. But they still don't want to see a shutdown.

"They need to find some compromise and get to the middle ground, but I don't know if that can still happen these days," Bob Moore said. "They need to get some confidence in this country."

The Moores were escorting a visiting relative to the museum and viewing platform for the Melvin Price Locks and Dam. While the museum will close as a recreational service, the lock is expected to stay open as a critical service for barge traffic on the river.

But don't discount the impact of recreation, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Mike Peterson, who will be staying home himself now that the government is shutting down.

The federal government manages five lakes in the St. Louis region on both sides of the river, including Carlyle and Rend lakes in Illinois. Federal campgrounds around the lake would close. Peterson said the lakes see 17 million visitors per year, with approximately $421 million impact on the local economy and 6,700 jobs depending on the tourists at the lakes.

"There's a huge economic impact that our recreation program brings," Peterson said. "It's not just the federal employees taking a hit, it's the local economy. It's a pretty significant impact."

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 239-2507.

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