The hard winter of 1779-80–one of the worst winters in recorded history–could not shut down Jockey Hollow.
But the 113th Congress is on the verge of doing just that.
As the budget impasse threatened a shutdown of federal operations, officials at what is is now the Morristown National Historical Park spent Monday preparing for a lockdown that will come if the House and Senate don’t reach agreement by midnight.
“We’re anxious. We’re all waiting,” said Justin Monetti, chief of interpretation for the park, which encompasses Jockey Hollow in Harding and Fort Nonsense, the Ford Mansion and the Washington’s Headquarters Museum in Morristown.
If Congress fails to pass a spending bill, Justin said these facilities will be closed for all purposes–including hiking at Jockey Hollow, where George Washington’s troops toughed it out during the Revolutionary War.
The 30-person park staff will be reduced to four “essential” law-enforcement Park Rangers, he said, and this skeleton crew won’t want to risk any situations that might require search-and-rescue missions or attending to injured visitors.
“We want to keep the park safe,” said Justin.
An extended shutdown could dampen plans for wedding parties and family reunions, which sometimes come to the park for photographs.
It also would throw a monkey wrench into a late-October workshop scheduled by the Crossroads of the American Revolution and the New Jersey Heritage Trust; they plan to discuss new ways to promote Morristown’s historic heritage. A workshop for educators is scheduled in November, in conjunction with Mount Vernon, George Washington’s Virginia home.
A variety of guided tours and hikes by Park Rangers also would be shelved.
Most computers and other electronics would be switched off, although the climate control system for the park’s archive–which houses priceless manuscripts of the Founding Fathers–would be maintained, Justin said.
Furloughed employees would lose use of their government email and cell phones, however. The park’s website also would go dark.
Every year about 300,000 people visit the Morristown National Historical Park, the nation’s first such park when it was established in 1933.
Justin expressed confidence that Congress will come through at the 11th hour. But if it doesn’t, he said, park staffers will meet Tuesday morning to execute the shutdown.
Deer, bears and other wildlife will be allowed to stay.
“They’re not on the payroll,” Justin said.