CARLSBAD, N.M. (KRQE) - The government shutdown is affecting more than those in Washington. It's hitting home for many New Mexicans especially those working at the state's only national park.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park furloughed 80 employees Tuesday and shut its doors to even more tourists.
"We plan to visit a couple national parks, but right now none of them are available, said Grace Cheng who, with her family, drove almost 10 hours to visit Carlsbad Caverns Tuesday. "I'm so disappointed. It shouldn't have happened."
But it did happen. A large part of the federal government shut down today for the first time in nearly two decades all because Congress couldn't agree on a spending plan for the next fiscal year.
"That's not an easy thing to do to phase 80 people and tell them you're going to be out of work," said park Superintendent John Benjamin.
Benjamin said he had to furlough workers that have been with the park for years.
"It's a big disappointment looking into my different savings that I'm going to tap into to be able to move through who knows how long the duration is," said furloughed Caverns worker Heath Bell.
For now, Bell says there's not much he and his co-workers can do but wait for answers.
"We are understanding," said Bell. "We are sympathetic but still frustrated by the overall concern that it just seems like it's really a political game for my job at stake."
Carlsbad Caverns officials said essential personnel like the park's four law enforcement officers and key maintenance people will continue to work to make sure the park is protected and equipment is working properly.
National monuments in the state also are closed as are public sites and areas managed by other federal agencies.
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