NEW HAVEN, W.Va. -- Access to the New River Gorge Canyon Rim Visitor Center was blocked and signs warned the public of the closure, serving as a reminder of the federal government shutdown on its ninth day.
However, that didn't stop some from seeing the park anyway. Cars lined the road beside the blocked road to the visitor center, and several people, like Linda and John Mealie, decided to walk to the overlook.
"They can close the park but they can't take away the view," Linda said as the two walked to the overlook.
Celebrating their 50th anniversary, the Mealies made plans in advance to see the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They decided to visit the New River Gorge on their way back home to Pittsburgh.
But the shutdown affected many of their plans with the closure of national park service facilities.
"All the good stuff was blocked off," John said of the trip to the Smoky Mountains. "We were upset. We had planned this trip and now, a lot of places we wanted to come see are closed."
October is the second-busiest month for the park, said Jeff West, chief ranger at the New River Gorge National River. With the shutdown, the park was reduced from about 100 employees to nine.
West said Gauley River whitewater rafting season is in full swing and there are lots of public and private access points.
He said many parks have closed off gates to all trails but it simply was not economically feasible to do that at the park.
"It would cost thousands of dollars to block off," he said. "We've not made any attempt to prevent the public from accessing it."
But fewer staff members mean a lessened response capability. West hopes people avoid the area. Those who do come to public access areas should use caution, he said.