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Government shutdown could impact peak season at Peaks of Otter

By Tim Saunders, tsaunders@wdbj7.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 09:12:21 AM EST
Updated On: Sep 30 2013 07:13:59 PM EDT

Visitors will be turned away unless the budget situation gets resolved.

BEDFORD, Va. -

Leaves along the Blue Ridge Parkway are beginning to show their fall colors.

Mother nature's annual art show promises to bring thousands of people to the Peaks of Otter.

"October is our busy season," said Robert Peters, general manager at the Peaks of Otter Lodge.  "When the leaves start changing, that's when we make our money."

Peters says the hotel can generate $10,000 to $20,000 per-weekend when fall foliage is on display.

"You need that money to survive," said Peters.  "You've got to pay the bills."

The lodge is at risk of losing that revenue.  If the government shuts down Tuesday, Peters will have to turn away guests and furlough his employees.

"We will notify our guests that they have 48 hours to relocate another lodging facility," Peters said Monday.

A shutdown of the parkway would be a huge inconvenience for people like Kimmo Karstoft, who's visiting from Denmark.

"God I love America!" Karstoft said.  "It's so beautiful!"

He's hoping to drive the Parkway all the way to Asheville, but a government shutdown will force him to change his plans.

"We would like to continue our tour and enjoy the views," said Karstoft.  "It's fabulous."

If the lodge closes, Peters worries it will kill the strong momentum that's been building since the facility reopened in July.

"We're ironing out some details and working on making the place better," Peters said.  "This kind of halts everything."

If the shutdown happens, Peters plans to ask the park service to grant an except and allow the Peaks of Otter Lodge to remain open.  Since it's located along State Route 43, the lodge will still be accessible if the parkway closes.

At this point he's unsure whether the government will grant his request.