CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If the looming federal government shutdown becomes reality, West Virginia outdoor enthusiasts and nature-minded tourists will find many of their favorite venues closed as the state moves into one of its busiest seasons for outdoor recreation.
Hundreds of West Virginia National Guard personnel will be told not to come to work, and hundreds more will be expected to come to work not knowing when they'll be paid.
"We're looking at having to cancel training we had scheduled for this weekend, because we don't know what's going to happen," said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, state adjutant general.
"We're drastically impacting service members and their families," he said. "We ask a lot of them, and the least we can do is offer them some kind of stability. We ask them to go out there and protect their country, and they expect Washington to take care of them."
Contingency plans for a government shutdown call for all campgrounds and visitor centers in New River Gorge National River to be closed, and more than 100 park employees to be furloughed. The state's two national wildlife refuges -- Canaan Valley and Ohio River Islands -- would close, as would visitor centers and most campgrounds in the Monongahela National Forest.
"If the shutdown happens, campers in all our campgrounds will be notified [today] that they have 48 hours to vacate," said Robin Snyder, chief of interpretation and visitor services for New River Gorge National River, a 70,000-acre unit of the National Park Service.
"We'll shut down the areas that we can, but this isn't a place where you can just lock a gate and close the park, since there are so many state and private roads leading to access points," Snyder said.
If a shutdown occurs, park employees will be given their furlough notices today, and have about four hours to close down their work sites, Snyder said. Only nine "essential" park employees will remain on the job -- seven in law enforcement and two maintenance workers who run a park water treatment plant.
"Since the latter part of last week, we've been notifying special use permitees, like the climbing organizations that offer guided tours, that they would have to cease operating here with a shutdown," Snyder said.
Whitewater rafting outfitters, regulated by the state Division of Natural Resources and not the National Park Service, would continue to operate during the shutdown.
Snyder said Bridge Day, the park's busiest single day for tourism, would not be affected by the shutdown even if it continues past Oct. 19, the date for this year's celebration. "It's become a well-oiled machine over the years, and even with a limited staff from us, it will go on as planned," she said.
Only the superintendents and law enforcement personnel at Canaan Valley and Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuges would remain on the job following a federal government shutdown, according to officials at the two refuges. Visitor centers and other public facilities at the refuges would remain closed until a budget compromise is reached.
While the 919,000-acre Monongahela National Forest would remain open, most of its public facilities, including developed campgrounds and visitor centers, would close, and many of its employees would be furloughed.
Law enforcement and firefighting personnel would remain on the job, as would administrators needed to oversee major contracts, including timber sales, said Kate Goodrich-Arling, the forest's public information officer. But other "non-essential" personnel would be furloughed, she said.
A federal government shutdown would also close U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds and day use areas across West Virginia and the nation.
If the shutdown takes place, campers in Corps of Engineers campgrounds will be asked to leave by 8 p.m. today, according to a release from the agency. Campers may elect to leave their campsite reservations open for possible use after the shutdown is lifted, or receive refunds for any unused portions of their reservations.
Hoyer, with 32 years in the military, has seen government shutdowns and the threat of government shutdowns before. But this time seems different.
"For all the years I've been doing this, this [shutdown] is the one that's got me the most concerned and the most frustrated," he said. "We did the same thing last year, played chicken up until the last minute. That's unacceptable."
Hoyer said the National Guard has about 2,600 employees in West Virginia. More than 900 are classified as federal technicians, who may work as anything from aircraft mechanics to fire chiefs to managers. They are paid by the federal government, and most will be told to stay home if the government shuts down.
State National Guard officials will keep a skeleton crew of essential technicians on hand. Hoyer said C-5 cargo missions already scheduled out of Martinsburg's 167th Airlift Wing that are deemed vital to military operations will take off as planned. But other C-5 flights out of Martinsburg and C-130 flights out of the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston may be put on hold or canceled altogether.
The fire station the National Guard operates at Yeager Airport in Charleston will also remain staffed, Hoyer said. "If those firefighters aren't there, it's not just our airplanes, but everyone's airplanes that can't take off and land," he said.
Air-traffic controllers at Yeager and other airports would not be off the job if the government shuts down.