THE SHUTDOWN: DAY 13 — What do you do when a cruise ship comes calling and your national park is closed?
By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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“We had to change everything because everything was involving Olympic National Park,” said Russ Veenema, executive director of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The final of this season’s stops in Port Angeles for the American Cruise Lines vessel American Spirit is slated for this Monday evening, with a Wednesday afternoon departure scheduled for Port Townsend.
The vessel is expected to pull into Port Townsend on Wednesday evening and depart Friday morning.
No planned tours in Port Townsend involved the national park.
Veenema estimated that the American Spirit brought between 60 and 70 passengers over the first two visits in October. Ninety passengers are expected this week.
The government shutdown, effective Oct. 1, furloughed 103 Olympic National Park employees and left a skeleton crew of 31 law enforcement rangers, emergency responders and maintenance crews to keep the park secure.
Up until the park’s gates were shut, passengers from the American Spirit could go by tour bus up the winding road to Hurricane Ridge and visit Lake Crescent.
With those locales off the table, Veenema said he had to organize replacement tours for the three cruise visits in October.
“There were passengers [who] were disappointed when they got off the ship they weren’t going to Hurricane Ridge or Olympic National Park, but they were appreciative of what we offered them,” Veenema said.
The replacement tour offered a viewing of the log yard just west of downtown Port Angeles with tour guide Willie Nelson of All Points Charters & Tours explaining how logs are sorted and prepared for shipping.
“People just found that whole timber industry fascinating,” Veenema said.
Cruise passengers then were taken to the Salt Creek Recreation Area and Tongue Point off state Highway 112.
“The views were great, and we actually had pretty good weather,” Veenema said.
Nelson also led tours of the Elwha River viewpoints outside of park boundaries and explained the dam-removal process, Veenema added.
After lunch, passengers headed east by bus to tour the Jardin du Soleil lavender farm in Sequim, where farm staffers explained the growing process for Sequim’s iconic flower, Veenema said.
The tour then took the cruisers to the Dungeness River Audubon Center at Railroad Ridge Park and exposed them to the interpretive displays and natural setting the center has to offer.
“It was a perfect time because all the salmon were in the river,” Veenema said.
Although the October tours of the Port Angeles and Sequim areas were not exactly what cruise passengers were expecting, Veenema said, he received positive feedback from cruise organizers.
“The cruise company was very complimentary of the changes we did and felt like the guests had a very good experience,” Veenema said.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: October 12. 2013 6:22PM