The U.S. government shutdown in October 2013 was the culmination of a national political fight over federal budgeting, but its effects were felt far from Washington, D.C., including at two federal park sites in Oklahoma.
Sulphur, Okla. relies heavily on the tourism revenue it gets as a result of being attached to the Chickasaw National Wildlife Refuge, which was shutdown for the first half of October along with the rest of the country’s national parks and wildlife refuges.
According to a National Park Service report released this month, gateway communities like Sulphur that sit just outside park entrances nationwide lost a combined $414 million in visitor spending during the 16-day period.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area saw roughly 49 percent fewer visitors in October compared to October 2012, according to National Park Service data. That drop in visitors cost Sulphur and the surrounding area an estimated $1 million, park superintendent Bruce Noble said.
It was easy to see the effects of the shutdown when StateImpact visited Sulphur in October. Every business owner we talked to said revenue was down. And the anger with the federal government was palpable:
…At least the coffee shop has Sulphur residents to fall back on. Dick Duhn at Arbuckle RV Resort is really feeling the pain.
“I’d say we’re probably down 50 to 60 percent — at least,” Duhn says. “I’m embarrassed for our government that functions so poorly. And I just wish there was an election coming up.”
The shutdown only lasted a couple of weeks, and the data covers the entire month, so it can’t be said with certainty that the shutdown caused all of the drop in attendance. For example, about as many people visited the park in Oct. 2010 as visited in Oct. 2013.
However, the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site in far western Oklahoma — the other site that was temporarily closed — had an equivalent drop in visitors from Oct. 2012 to 2013.
Fewer than 500 people visited the Washita Battlefield NHS in Oct. 2013, compared to more than 1,000 in Oct. 2012.