WILTON/RIDGEFIELD, Conn. -- A photographer looking for some fall foliage to shoot and a painter using the landscape as an inspiration were among the disappointed visitors Tuesday at Weir Farm National Historic Site on the Wilton and Ridgefield border.
Weir Farm along with the 400 other National Parks officially closed as Congress continued to spar over spending and health care reforms.
A painter unloaded her canvas and all of her supplies only to put them all back into her trunk Tuesday morning. "It's just so sad," she said. "I just wanted a safe place to paint."
"I hadn't put one and one together," said Andy Romer, a professional photographer who lives just up the street from the park in Wilton. "I saw that Yellowstone was shutting down. I didn't think that Weir Farm was."
But the 60-acre property was shuttered to visitors as the rangers and other staffers arrived for a four-hour shift to close down the park Tuesday morning as the government powered down.
They put up closed signs -- laminated sheets of paper reading, "Because of the federal government shutdown, this National Park Facility is closed." Those notices now flap in the breeze on the ropes blocking the parking lot, the visitor center entrance and a number of trails.
"We made eight closed signs," said Superintendent Linda Cook. "We put them up on the natural points of entry to the park -- the visitor center, the parking lot, the restroom."
One staffer changed the message on the phone to advise visitors that the park is closed and that all programs and tours are canceled.
The park's staff, including the rangers, curator and gardener, is on furlough along with the workers doing rehabilitation work on the home of Julian Alden Weir and the two artists studios.
The property may not be behind a barbed wire fence, but the grounds are off-limits to the public and parking is not allowed, Cook said.
As is the case for all parks, one staffer has been designated to keep the facility safe and is on hand in case of any problems.
Kevin Monthie, the supervisory facility operations specialist at Weir Farm, has that duty. As noon approached, he carried his lunch into the closed visitor center and put up the last of the closed signs.
"These things happen," Romer said good-naturedly as he headed for another spot for his picture-taking. "But I'm definitely disappointed."
Hoping for a virtual visit to Weir Farm or one of the other National Parks? You're out of luck.
Weir Farm's Twitter, @WeirFarmNPS, carried the message: "Because of the federal gov't shutdown this National Park Service Twitter feed is inactive. We'll start tweeting again when we get back." Its Facebook page carried a similar message: "Because of the federal government shutdown this National Park Service Facebook page is inactive. We'll start the conversation again when we get back."
The National Park Service's website is basically shut down, carrying the message: "Because of the federal government shutdown, all national parks are closed and National Park Service webpages are not operating. For more information, go to www.doi.gov."
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