Federal shutdown hits Midewin Tallgrass Prairie
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org October 1, 2013 7:54PM
Updated: November 3, 2013 6:35AM
Keith Baldacchino of Bartlett took the federal government shutdown in stride Tuesday as he unexpectedly encountered a locked welcome center at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie near Wilmington.
On Tuesday, Illinois’ first day of deer hunting season for bow hunters, Baldacchino stopped at the center to pick up deer hunting passes for a friend who didn’t get his in the mail. Hunting licenses are issued by the state, but Midewin requires hunters to register for passes so officials know who is in the federal Forest Service prairie park.
But a sign on the door explained the center was closed “due to the lapse in federal government funding” and that the office would open once funding was restored.
“I don’t care if this place opens up ever again,” he said as he stood in front of the locked doors. “Because we don’t need the government to hunt here. We don’t need the government for most essential services. The government shuts down every weekend and we all do fine.”
The federal government entered a partial shutdown Tuesday after Congress — fighting over the nation’s health care plan — could not agree on a federal spending plan. Midewin was among the local immediate shutdowns, while more could be on the way depending on how long the gridlock lasts.
Despite the political brinksmanship that had gone on for weeks, Baldacchino said he was at the welcome center Monday and told there probably wouldn’t be a shutdown. Baldacchino said he has been hunting at Midewin for the past five years.
“This is an awesome place,” he said of the 18,500-acre park, which was carved out of the former Joliet arsenal site. “There’s very little supervision, there’s low regulation and it’s very large. There’s lots of deer without a high concentration of people.”
A little farther north on Route 53, Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, another federal facility located on former arsenal land, was not affected by the shutdown — for now. Burials at the 982-acre veterans cemetery in Elwood were going forward as scheduled said Genevieve Billia, a spokeswoman for the Veterans Administration in Washington D.C.
But if the shutdown lasts more than two weeks, the cemetery will begin operating on a modified schedule, she said.
“We’re not canceling any (burials) and we’re not turning people away,” she said.
Billia said she wasn’t sure how many fewer burials would be performed each day.
“At this point we don’t know,” she said.
Meanwhile, services at local veterans clinics and offices were continuing as normal, said Barbara Hunt, a VA spokeswoman and Hines VA hospital near Maywood.
“We are busy as usual today,” she said.
Nick Palmer, chief of staff for Will County Executive Larry Walsh, said county government, which receives federal grants for various programs, won’t immediately notice the shutdown.
“As long as they don’t go back and rescind money, we’re OK,” he said. “It may slow down federal grants, but we’ll still be OK.”
Some federal offices remained open with limited services. Social Security offices, such as the one on Houbolt Road in Joliet, were still assisting people, but no new enrollments were being taken, said Guy Tridgell, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-3rd, of Western Springs.
Still, Lipinski said he would keep his offices in Lockport, Oak Lawn and Chicago open during the shutdown.
But the shutdown will effect people to various degrees. According to Lipinski’s office, Social Security checks will be issued, but new applications and other paperwork could be delayed. Current Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and providers aren’t expected to be effected, new applications likely will be delayed, according to his office.
Also, VA medical services and facilities will carry on, as will mail service. But passport and visa applications won’t be processed and most federal property will be closed to the public and employees that are considered nonessential, according to the release.
For more information visit
www.usa.gov/shutdown.shtml or call (800) 333-4636 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central time.