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Government Shutdown Closes Hoosier National Forest

Last updated on Monday, October 14, 2013

(INDIANA) - The Hoosier National Forest, over 3 hundred square miles of hills and trees are off limits to people looking for fall color, a little exercise, or get-a-way to the woods.

It is the most colorful time of the year and the federal government wants Hoosiers like Lydia and Chris Johnson to keep out of the Hoosier National Forest. Those visiting the forest say that's crazy.

It sounds even crazier to Rick Hofstetter. The owner of the Story Inn was stunned by a phone call from US Forestry Service.

"We're out of money in Washington so quit making money for us here in Indiana." Hofstetter explained. In other words, quit selling passes? "Yes," he answered.

With a business on the very edge of the forest, Hofstetter sells the government permits horse riders and trail bikers are required to purchase. In essence, a government that doesn't have money says quit making money? "Correct!" says Hofstetter.

This is due to the fact that the forest is technically closed. The roads through and around the massive forest are open. There are no barricades. People after all live inside the Hoosier National Forest. You can still drive through but the federal government has made it clear they don't want people wandering the woods.

The USDA - Hoosier National Forest web site tells would be visitors, "Due to a lapse in funding ... all federally owned recreation sites are closed."

The Story Inn still sees plenty of horsemen and cyclists. Where are they going? "Don't ask, don't tell," Hofstetter said.

When the owners of a North Carolina Inn along the Blue Ridge Parkway were told to shut down they said no.

In Wyoming, misbehaving bison are quietly flattening barricades standing between them and tourists.

And Hoosiers are pursuing their right to happiness. "It's ours anyway." Chris Johnson said. "It belongs to us. There's no gate out here."

Right now it's not a question of how to keep visitors out of the forest . It's an issue of who could do it? The Hoosier National Forest office in Bedford is closed. The answering machine says the government workers have been furloughed.

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