With National Lakeshore closed, students see impact of federal shutdown

2013-10-01T15:00:00Z 2013-10-11T21:47:06Z With National Lakeshore closed, students see impact of federal shutdownTimes Staff nwitimes.com
October 01, 2013 3:00 pm  • 

Fifth-graders at John Simatovich Elementary School in Union Township will learn firsthand about Tuesday's federal government shutdown.

The 50 to 55 students are not able to use the cabins at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for the annual three-day science- and history-based program that is set to begin Wednesday, said Principal Phyllis Allison.

Allison, other school officials and the staff at the Dunes Learning Center, which provides the programming for their trip, were scrambling Tuesday to make alternate plans that would shift the students scheduled outing to the nearby Indiana Dunes State Park.

The program, which is funded through a combination of student contributions and help from the national park and Parent Teacher Organization, includes a daylong hike, ecological education, campfires and concluding skits, Allison said.

Sandi Weindling, director of marketing and development for Dunes Learning Center, said the DLC is an independent, nonprofit organization that uses cabins at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The 12-member staff works for DLC, not the federal government, she said, so programming can continue despite the government shutdown.

Most of its programming is conducted out on the trails of the dunes, so moving it to the state park is a viable option, she said.

Their challenges are where the participants will eat and sleep, Weindling said.

Allison said students and their chaperones will sleep in 10-man tents at the state park instead of the cabins at the DLC.

"It's a little more of a rustic environment," she said.

Students, however, will not be allowed to visit the Bailly Homestead and Chellberg Farm at the National Lakeshore.

Officials at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore began closing the National Park Service property early Tuesday in response to the government shutdown.

"Most of our employees, like myself, will be furloughed today after we finish shutdown activities this morning," said Bruce Rowe, spokesman for the National Lakeshore.

Rowe said some law enforcement rangers and firefighters will remain on duty "to protect the park resources and respond to emergencies."

"All facilities of the national lakeshore, like all national parks across the country, are closed to the public until the shutdown is over," Rowe said.

More details about the impact of the government shutdown on the National Park Service is available at www.doi.gov/shutdown/fy2014/upload/NPS-contingency-plan.pdf.

Included in the shutdown of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk, according to a statement released Tuesday morning by the Portage Parks Department. While the site is managed by the Portage Parks Department, it is officially a part of the IDNL.

Although national parks and national wildlife refuges are closed, Indiana’s 24 state parks and eight reservoir properties, including the Indiana Dunes State Park remain open, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Additionally, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, its WorkOne centers and regional partners will continue operations as usual, including all unemployment insurance activities and training and education programs, according to the DWD.

Services continued as usual Tuesday at the Adam Benjamin Jr. Veterans Administration Outpatient Clinic in Crown Point.

All Veterans Administration medical facilities and clinics were to remain fully operational during the government shutdown, according to a Veterans Field Guide to Government Shutdown provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Included in a list of services that will continue during the shutdown were inpatient and outpatient care, prescriptions, surgeries, dental treatment and vet centers.

It was business as usual Tuesday for the staff at the U.S. District Courthouse at 5400 Federal Plaza in Hammond.

An employee in the District Court Clerk’s office said all employees reported for work and everything was on schedule.

The federal building also houses the courtrooms and offices of seven federal judges, the U.S. attorney’s office, the bankruptcy court and the offices of the probation and pretrial services.

However, the U.S. Social Security Administration local office at 418 E. Douglas St. in Hammond was offering only limited services Tuesday after the government shutdown.

Two 8-1/2-by-11-inch red, white and blue signs on the front door announced the changes.

“During the Federal Government Shutdown, local Social Security offices are open with limited services. Please refer to the signs of display for more details,” read one of the signs.

The second carried a message that read “Due to Congressional inaction to prevent a government shutdown, we will be able to provide only these services” followed by a list of those limited services.

Those services include helping people apply for benefits, assisting with an appeal request, changing an address or direct deposit information, accepting reports of deaths, verifying or changing citizenship status, replacing lost or missing Social Security payments, issuing a critical payment, changing a representative payee and processing a change in living arrangements or income only for SSI recipients.

Most people entering the building didn’t seem to look at the signs, and exited the building within a minute of their arrival.

One woman, who didn’t want to be identified, said she wanted to get a replacement for a lost Social Security card. That wasn’t one of the limited services being processed Tuesday.

“They weren’t rude,” she said. “They told us they couldn’t help us. They’re just doing their jobs.”

According to the signs, Social Security business can be conducted online at www.ssa.gov.

Times staff writers Bob Kasarda, Lauri Harvey Keagle, Joyce Russell and Susan Erler and Times correspondent Lu Ann Franklin contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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