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Government shutdown impacts Utah recreation facilities and workers

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Posted at 10:17 PM, Oct 04, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-05 00:17:50-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The government has been shut down for four days, and the impact is trickling to some of Utah's recreational facilities and those who staff them.

FOX 13 News visited several northern Utah campgrounds Friday, many of them closed with signs that read: "This U.S. Department of Agriculture facility is closed due to the lapse in federal government funding."

American Land & Leisure operates more than 100 campgrounds throughout northern Utah and hundreds more throughout the country. Though they are a private company, Senior Vice President Steve Werner said they’ve closed the sites.

"We've been asked by the Forest Service to close all of our facilities down due to a lack of federal funding,” he said.

Many of their campgrounds have already closed, which is typical for this time of year, but Werner said 45 campgrounds should stay open for at least another month. Thirty of those sites are now closed because of the government shutdown.

American Land & Leisure is in a unique position because the campgrounds they operate are all on Forest Service land, but the company provides their own staff and relies on user fees to pay their employees and keep operations going. Still, they're expecting the worst.

"A lot of our staff are very concerned about the close down,” Werner said. “We've had staff calling in tears the last couple days, very concerned for what they're gonna do. They had counted on another couple of months of income."

FOX 13 News spoke with campground host Donna Reichert, who said the unknown is frustrating.

"Mind boggling from basically the trickle down effect I guess is what you'd call it because nobody knows," she said.

She said the month and a half worth of paychecks being taken away will hit hard.

"My husband and I, we aren't retirement age so we're not getting Social Security, so we actually do have to depend on a job so now we're gonna have to go find something else to fill that gap, and I don't know what that's gonna be yet,” she said.

For now, Strawberry Bay, Aspen Grove, Soldier Creek and Current Creek at Strawberry Reservoir are still open. Shingle Creek, Shady Dell, and Yellow Pine along Mirror Lake Highway are open as well. In Ogden, Anderson Cove is open, and only the day-use areas up the Cottonwood Canyons.

If the Forest Service gives American Land & Leisure approval to keep their campgrounds open, we're told the process of shutting down and opening up again are too much for them to re-open the closed campgrounds. Those already closed will remain closed the rest of the year.