For communities dependent on national parks, shutdown is economic knockout

(CBS News) JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. - At an appearance Thursday morning in Maryland, President Obama called on Republican House Speaker John Boehner to end the government shutdown with a straight up-or-down vote on funding the government. As the dispute continues, national parks all over America remain closed, including the one we visited in California.

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With the Joshua Tree National Park closed, visitors to Catherine Colella's camping gear store has drastically fell. She could be among several employees cut if the shutdown doesn't end soon.
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Joshua Tree National Park in the Southern California desert is a world-class climbing destination. When the temperature drops each fall, the number of visitors goes up -- about 3,300 a day in October.

"I'm really hoping that this shutdown will only last a week at most," said Catherine Colella, a sales clerk at Nomad Ventures in the town of Joshua Tree. The camping gear store earns one-third of its annual income in October and November, drawing up to 150 customers a day.

But on Wednesday, the store had only five people, according to Colella.

And if the shutdown lasts more than a week, 5 of the 8 employees will be laid off, and Colella could be one of those who are cut. "Actually next week," she said. "If we do not have the park open, I will be looking at staying home next week."

Sarah Samadi traveled from Germany to see Joshua Tree, only to discover she couldn't spend her money because of the shutdown.
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Frank Balmes and Sarah Samadi came from Germany to see Joshua Tree.

"We want to spend money and the government doesn't let us spend money," said Samadi. "It doesn't make sense."

Nationwide, park-dependent communities could lose $30 million a day. The fighting in Washington is hitting Catherine Colella in the pocketbook.

"It's not just a government shut down in Washington," she said. "It does have that ripple effect that hurts so many people."

Fall is actually the busiest time at the national parks -- here in the west because of the milder weather, and back east because of the foliage. One observer said closing the parks now would be like closing the malls at Christmas.

  • Bill Whitaker

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