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Shutdown corner: Watson vacation stymied by locked gate

Mike Watson spent part of his Tuesday looking at a locked gate.

“When you book a vacation, the last thing you think about is the government shutting down,” Watson, the Mayor of Maumelle, said by phone Tuesday afternoon from just outside the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

“So we’re just staring at the gate right now but at least I have phone service here.”

Watson said he and his wife left for the Rocky Mountain West last Friday for a weeklong vacation.

“We drove up and saw Mount Rushmore on Saturday and Sunday,” he said. “It was beautiful and we got to Grand Teton last night and I guess they shut everything down at Midnight. So we can’t get in.”

Watson said he and his wife would press on for at least another day while waiting to see what Washington would do.

“I guess if they don’t get something going, we’ll come back,” he said. “But just driving around has been beautiful. The scenery is incredible.”

Vacations aside, Watson thought that the shutdown would have a negligible impact on his city.

“We don’t have any positions, right now, that are funded by the federal government,” he said.

Watson said the police and fire departments have participated in different grant programs to buy equipment but that the city has nothing ongoing currently.

Around the state

About 2,000 state employees were furloughed Tuesday on the first day of the federal government shutdown, but officials found money to continue providing 86,000 daily meals to pre-kindergarten and before and after school programs, Gov. Mike Beebe said.

State officials originally thought the federally funded school meals program would end when the federal government shutdown began.

Other federal facilities and national parks in Arkansas closed because of the shutdown, including Hot Springs National Park, the Fort Smith National Historic Site and the Buffalo National River State Park.

Rob Moritz contributed.

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