Blue Ridge Parkway closed in parts of Virginia indefinitely due to shutdown

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AFTON, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Over the holiday, hikers have been disappointed to find the Blue Ridge Parkway is closed at every entrance.

The road is covered by debris from an ice storm that happened in November, but with the government shutdown, it won't be cleared for a while.

Some hikers, like Jeff Tomlinson and Julie Gallagher, decided to walk to the trails from where the road is blocked off.

"We'd looked and we thought that it was actually supposed to be open, but I guess it's not," said Tomlinson.

He and Gallagher drove from Richmond together to go hiking.

"We made a big deal about planning this trip to come out today," said Gallagher. "Tried to make sure it was primed up for us to do a little bit of hiking. Came out and the park was open but not accessible."

The National Park Service left a notice at the Rockfish Gap entrance that said the area is open to the public, but no personnel will be available to provide guidance, assistance, maintenance, or emergency response. The federal agency urges extreme caution for anyone who does go in.

"We hiked a little bit back the other way on Blue Ridge Parkway but we weren't able to get very far," said Tomlinson.

Gallagher said others have come too, but many did not bother to go past the barrier.

"There were tons of people coming off of the interstate and they just looped around and left," she said.

Mark Bales, who lives by the parkway, said the roads have been bad since the November ice storm.

"We had to get out ourselves and clear what we could," he said. "There's just too much debris in the road. And there's not anybody here to get the stuff cleared out."

Workers won't be able to clear the roads and trails until the shutdown is over, leaving outdoor lovers wondering when they'll be able to enjoy some hiking again.

"It's just a shame that the government couldn't get their act together enough to keep things like this open for everyone to enjoy," said Gallagher.

The combination of winter weather and the government shutdown means National Park Service staff will have a lot of work to do when they return.

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