Federal shutdown to impact MN school children

2:16 PM, Oct 1, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - Faced with a furlough from her job and a loss of pay, Mary Blitzer could only think about one thing: the kids.

Blitzer, a park ranger with the National Park Service in St. Paul, is supposed to be on the Mississippi River Tuesday morning, guiding students on a field trip as part of Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures.

Now that the government has partially shut down, Blitzer must step away from her job at one of the busiest parts of her year.

"Two to three school programs every day scheduled right now and all through October," said the frustrated ranger. "It just stinks, and it's really beautiful out. It's the perfect time of year to go on field trips."

Not all of the trips will be cancelled; many will go on with volunteers and partner organizations filling the roles of park rangers. But Blitzer says the cancellations will mount if a shutdown continues past the first week.

Twenty-nine National Park Service workers will be idled in St. Paul under a shutdown. Some of them work at the Mississippi River Visitors Center at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Though the museum would remain open, the visitor center will be closed.

"I'll be watching TV probably til midnight (Monday night) to see if nothing happens," said John Anfinson, acting superintendent of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.

Barring a last-minute compromise, Anfison will call his employees together Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. and hand out furlough notices. Only one employee would remain on the job at the St. Paul office as the other 29 are given four hours to button up things at work before going home.

Lyndon Torstenson, a park ranger and manager, says it's not about the money. No ranger goes into the work for the money.

"We're paid to fulfill our mission," he says, "and that involves conveying the stories of the Mississippi River with kids and the public and to help them learn."

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