WASHINGTON (AP) — The museums that draw millions of visitors to the National Mall closed their doors Tuesday, memorials were barricaded and trash will go uncollected in the nation's most-visited national park due to the first government shutdown in 17 years.
Visitors found locked doors, black metal barricades and yellow caution tape blocking entrances to popular tourist attractions just hours after the shutdown. Fountains at the World War II Memorial were shut off.
"Why the heck does this have to be closed?" said Deb Cavender, 44, of Ames, Iowa, as she and her husband were making their way toward the memorial.
Tourists took pictures of signs on the barricades that read "Because of the Federal Government SHUTDOWN, All National Parks Are CLOSED."
One by one, the memorials were closed, along with about 45 fountains maintained by the National Park Service, said spokeswoman Carol Johnson.
That included the World War II monument, but still dozens of veterans were escorted past the barriers by members of Congress so they could see their monument.
More than 125 veterans from Mississippi and Iowa arrived for a previously scheduled visit to find it closed. Members of Congress cut police tape and moved the barricades to let them in.
"It's unfortunate that this is what happens when they know that there are busloads of veterans coming down here, and they don't have the good sense to say keep the damn thing open," said John Kleinschmidt, 87, of Ames, Iowa. "These are the guys that created it."
Pumps also will be stopped at the Lincoln Memorial's long reflecting pool, but it won't be immediately drained.
Perhaps most noticeable effect: Trash pickup has ceased on the National Mall and in downtown Washington parks maintained by the National Park Service. In total, 330 workers from the National Mall have been furloughed.
Melinda MacNamara, 25, and her boyfriend Ian Keen, 31, were visiting from Australia. They toured the National Air and Space Museum and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Monday but were out of luck Tuesday when they found Smithsonian museums closed. The pair thought the outdoor monuments would be open but found barricades blocking their way.
"We're making the most of it," MacNamara said, adding that the sites seemed less crowded.
Travel and leisure spending generates about $12 billion annually for the Washington region's economy, according to Stephen Fuller, director of George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis. That's $33 million a day in tourism business, with the main draw being the National Mall.
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