By Rob McDaniel
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — As the federal government shutdown begins its third week, Laurel County has begun to feel the effects as the Daniel Boone National Forest has closed its gates to the public.
The Daniel Boone National Forest is a local attraction that offers tourists and locals alike trails for hiking, beautiful natural scenery and boating, but for now none of these attractions are available to the public.
According to a public alert from the National Forest Service, all public services and facilities are shut down, including, but not limited to forest service offices, camp sites, picnic areas, boat ramps, and shooting ranges.
The Red River Gorge Geologic Area is also closed to overnight use because a fee pass is required and passes cannot be purchased at this time. Other facilities where a fee pass is required are also closed.
Included in the list of areas affected by the shutdown are the boat ramps at Holly Bay Marina. The ramps at Holly Bay are federally owned and, just like other federally-owned parks, they closed for business as lawmakers continue to fail to come to a resolution over a spending bill.
“You’ve got two campgrounds here, Holly Bay and Grove, that are shutdown so they had to turn campers away,” said Manager Randy Lawson. “Plus, you had all the boat owners down here that couldn’t use the boat ramps.”
Those who had boats in the water prior to closing are still free to go out on the lake as usual, but the shutdown prohibits the boat ramps from being used to launch boats into the water.
Boat owners had until Sunday at midnight to remove their watercraft vehicle from the lake without being penalized. Officials with the National Forest Service released a statement saying anyone who wanted to remove their boats from the landing had until midnight Sunday to do so without being penalized.
Law enforcement and fire suppression services are planned to continue to operate without interruption.
Park law enforcement officers will be enforcing trespassing laws in the parks. Trespassing in a national park can lead to a maximum fine of $500 and up to six months in jail.
The shutdown will continue to hurt businesses near the marina, as there are only a few weeks left of warm weather for boaters and campers to enjoy before the fall sets in and the warm weather begins to cool off.
Lawson said the Marina is getting phone calls every day wanting to know if the boat ramps and campgrounds are open. Unfortunately, until the shutdown is over, he’ll have to continue to turn people away.
Lawson estimated up to 1,500 boaters could be turned away before the national parks are re-opened.