Friday, April 8, 2011

West Palm Beach honeymooners John & Tiffany Cook didn't plan on government shutdown

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Updated: 6:07 p.m. Friday, April 8, 2011
Posted: 5:23 p.m. Friday, April 8, 2011
As a celebrity wedding planner Tiffany Nieves-Cook was probably more aware than most of the kinds of things that can go wrong when planning a honeymoon. But when it came to scheduling her own, a federal government shutdown figured no where on her list of disasters requiring a contingency plan.
"I've always been a plan A, B and C kind of girl," said Nieves-Cook, who was married April 2 at the Fountainebleu in Miami and planned to spend part of her honeymoon visiting the Grand Canyon and other national parks. "Honestly, it was the farthest thing from my mind."
Cook and her husband John, who live in West Palm Beach, spent a few days gambling, shopping and watching shows in Las Vegas. They had planned a helicopter ride Thursday to the Grand Canyon, but wind storms prevented the trip then and again on Friday. It was then the couple realized that by the time the weather improved, the Grand Canyon would probably be closed to visitors -- thanks to Congress' failure to pass a budget.
"You go on your honeymoon, you think you've planned for everything and then the government shuts down," John Cook said Friday, from his hotel room overlooking the Bellagio fountains.
Robore Amaral wasn't planning to travel nearly as far from home, but the looming federal government shutdown also affected his weekend schedule. Amaral had signed up to attend journaling-in-the Everglades event at the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, led by poet, Minx Boren and naturist, Shannon Duffy. The Arthur F. Marshall Foundation announced Thursday that due to the likely government shutdown, the event was canceled, Amaral said.
Between 300 and 500 visitors a day to the Loxahatchee refuge would be turned away if the government shuts down, said Sylvia Pelizza, refuge manager. There will be no bird walks, no guided canoe trips, no roving naturalist and no fishing anywhere on the refuge, which is home to endangered birds, including the Everglade snail kite and the wood stork, as well as a variety of fish species.
While visitors to the park would be affected, so would its staff. Of the 25 staff members, only Pelizza, two law enforcement officers and two firefighters are being asked to report to work if Congress cannot reach a budget deal. Employees -- even those who are working -- will get paid only if Congress passes legislation providing backpay during the shutdown.
"That's worrisome to a lot of people that you don't have your income coming in," Pelizza said. "You're just waiting and anticipating what's going to happen."
On Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers announced in preparation for the shutdown that it was planning to close all Corps-operated campgrounds as of Saturday . That includes St. Lucie South at Lake Okeechobee near Stuart.
"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers understands the impact that these actions might have on the American recreating public if we are required to close our recreation areas," said Michael G. Ensch, chief of operations, Headquarters, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "We know that this is a time of year when many vacationing families are using or planning to use corps recreation facilities, and we will reopen them for public use and enjoyment as quickly as possible."
Starting Saturday, no new visitors will be allowed into the campgrounds and no new reservations will be accepted. Campers on-site before the shutdown will be required to leave by 8 p.m. Sunday.
Back in Nevada, newlyweds John and Tiffany Cook walked the strip realizing there are worse things than being on honeymoon in Vegas.
"Thank goodness I brought extra evening gowns," Tiffany said. "We may not be able to go get dirty hiking, but we can definitely do the dress up part of our honeymoon."