Shutdown Felt at Long Island National Parks

Fire Island National Seashore visitors who missed the sign at Robert Moses Field 5 walked more than a mile to find this sign at the locked entrance of the Fire Island Lighthouse museum.
Fire Island National Seashore visitors who missed the sign at Robert Moses Field 5 walked more than a mile to find this sign at the locked entrance of the Fire Island Lighthouse museum.

The federal government shutdown closed Sagamore Hill National Historic Site and the Fire Island National Seashore, which some Long Islanders have been frustrated to learn upon arrival at the Island’s two national parks.

Visitors had similarly disgusted reactions at both Sagamore Hill, where renovations continue on Theodore Roosevelt’s Oyster Bay home despite the shutdown, and the historic lighthouse built in 1858 just east of Robert Moses State Park. National Parks Service employees that run both facilities have been furloughed under the shutdown.

“The fact that this hit us here is ironic because we go to museums and parks almost every day,” said one woman from Washington, D.C. and Oak Beach who declined to give her name after groaning with anger when she arrived Saturday at the lighthouse with her daughter to find it closed. “I hope they get themselves together and fix this fast.”

Republican leaders in the House of Representatives shut down the government Tuesday, the day the Affordable Care Act went into effect, when the U.S. Senate’s Democratic leaders rebuffed the GOP’s demands that Congress defund the law known as Obamacare.

Aside from leaving hundreds of thousands of federal employees out of work and  effecting countless Americans who rely on agencies deemed nonessential aside from federal courts, investigators and military, the shutdown also closed the Elizabeth Morton National Wildlife Refuge in Noyac and the Historic William Floyd Estate Grounds in Mastic, which is run by the Fire Island National Seashore, same as the FI lighthouse, Sailor’s Haven beach and Watch Hill beach.

“It’s unfortunate, what’s going on in Washington shouldn’t affect everyone’s daily life, it’s terrible,” said Walter Pawliw, a salesman who walks his dog at Sagamore Hill once a week. “This is one of the few parks that allow me to walk my dog. This is his favorite spot.”

Lori Arnel, an Oyster Bay resident who also came to the house of the 26th president—who greatly expanded the national parks system—to walk her dog on Friday, found the often lively park deserted. She halted at the Do Not Enter sign and barricade blocking the entrance.

“My first reaction when I saw that it is closed is that I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I live right around the corner so it never really hit me that they would shut this down.”

Others, such as  Ed Mulle, a director from South Nassau Communities Hospital, just went around the barricade. “I usually come here to bicycle from up and down the hill and although the park is closed I can still bicycle up and down the hill so it really doesn’t affect me personally,” Mulle said, adding: “I think politically this is a mess.”

The shut down did not effect previously contracted renovations at the lighthouse, where scaffolding was recently removed, and Sagamore Hill that is in the middle of renovations, which had closed much of the home to public tours until 2015.

“Although the government shut down this park I’m still doing work here because I work for a contractor, I’m not too affected,” Mike McLaughlin, a Cooper Power & Lighting construction worker said while on his break. “I’m disappointed because people come here to walk dogs; it messes up the daily routine.

While most went on about their day, some tried to predict how long this shutdown would last.

“As much as you would like to think it will be over soon, my gut feeling is that it will be awhile before this park opens again,” said Arnel, the dog walker. Pawliw, the salesman, predicted it would last at least another week, saying: “The presidential camp and the House of Representatives seem to be weakening, so hopefully it will only be for about another two weeks.”