CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Instead of going leaf peeping, campers kicked out of New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest because of the federal government shutdown are trying to spot "Vacancy" signs at private and state campgrounds as the Columbus Day weekend gets underway.
The Emert family drove from its North Stonington, Conn., home to the Dolly Copp campground at the base of Mount Washington on Wednesday with a five-day reservation, only to be evicted Thursday.
Sam Emert said he anticipated having trouble finding another campsite for the holiday weekend — New Hampshire's third busiest tourist weekend.
"We feel like it's not right," Emert said as he was packing up to leave with his wife and their four children, ages 4 to 13. "We paid the $100 and were never notified our site was canceled. In my opinion, they have the burden of telling me I can't come."
Because of the government shut down, the website for making reservations at national park campgrounds went down. A notice posted on the site tells would-be campers that reservations at closed facilities would be canceled.
The closure of the 21 campgrounds and hundreds of camping sites in the national forest comes at a particularly bad time. It is prime leaf-peeping season in the White Mountains. Last year, more than 600,000 tourists pumped nearly $90 million into the state's economy over the Columbus Day holiday weekend, state tourism officials said.
About 165 state and private campgrounds that do not contract with the federal government will remain open.
Kent Tower, owner of Pro Sport Inc. of Campton, said he was told last Friday that all 21 national forest campgrounds he runs under contract with the federal government had to close this week unless Congress breaks the budget stalemate causing the shutdown. He said every campground was fully booked.
"I'm really disappointed in the system," Tower said. "This shouldn't have happened. We operate without any day-to-day interactions or interference from the forest service."
He said he had been counting on the busy Columbus Day weekend to offset losses attributed to snow on Memorial Day weekend and a rainy early summer.