Shutdown affects Kanc bathroom breaks
CONCORD — Tourists with weak bladders might want to prepare before venturing onto the 34-mile Kancamagus Highway in the White Mountains National Forest.
Nearly a dozen rest room cabins along the “Kanc” are closed due to the federal government shutdown because there is no one working to clean them, and that, according to Ray Turmelle of Barringson, is causing — well — inconvenience.
In an email with the subject line, “Unbelievable,” Turmelle reported to the New Hampshire Union Leader on Thursday:
“Went to the mountains today and the mass of visitors, including several buses, were everywhere. If anyone had to go to the rest room, I have attached two photos of what they saw.”
The photos were of a rest room cabin with a shuttered door and a sign reading:
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service facility is currently closed due to the lapse in federal government funding, and health and safety concerns resulting from our inability to perform daily maintenance. The facility will reopen once Congress restores funding.”
Due to the government shutdown, no one from the Forest Service was available to answer questions about the rest room shutdowns.
But a spokesman at the White Mountains Attractions Association, which promotes tourism for the region, said the lack of open Kanc facilities should not, and has not, stopped tourists from visiting during foliage season, and probably won’t have any negative impact on tourism this weekend or on the upcoming big Columbus Day weekend.
“We have rest rooms right here at our visitors center at the head of the Kanc,” said the WMAA’s Meg Cowan.
“And once they get over to civilization on the other side, there are plenty of rest rooms there,” she said.
Cowan said the government shutdown has not had any effect on tourism in the region, “except the pickup in our phone calls asking questions.”
“We tell them the White Mountains are open for business,” she said.
Cowan estimated there are “eight to 10” rest room cabins along the “Kanc.”
While they are closed, she noted that the campgrounds along scenic roadway are open because they are operated by a private vendor.
And she pointed out that all state parks and privately operated attractions in the region, including Franconia Notch State Park, The Flume, Cannon Mountain, the Mount Washington Auto Road, Wildcat Mountain’s gondola and zip-line and the Willey House on Route 302 in Crawford Notch, which is state-operated despite being located in the national forest.
“And nobody’s going to stop you from going on any trails in the forest,” she said.
Unlike the monuments and memorials in Washington, the government can’t put a barricade around the national forest.
Cowan did note, however, that the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, which is operated by the National Parks Service, is closed.