Carrie Reece is worried for her co-workers at the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper. The federal museum’s employees haven’t been permitted to work since Dec. 21 due to the partial government shutdown, she said.
“I can’t imagine how stressful it is for them,” she said. “They’re all trying to stay positive.”
As the executive director for the facility’s foundation, Reece said she isn’t a federal employee and can therefore continue working. Her job largely involves grant writing, which she explained can be done from home.
But she said the museum’s six full-time federal employees don’t have that option.
“I am watching (news about the shutdown) closely and certainly hoping it will come to an end soon,” Reece said.
Reece said her co-workers who are federal workers would not be able to comment.
The center is one of Casper’s most popular visitor attractions, and winter is usually an especially busy time for the center, Reece said. Visitors in town for the holidays often stop by the museum, and schools throughout the state organize field trips to the facility.
“It’s a really valuable resource for educators,” she said, adding that the museum has special tour guides for students and brings in musicians and historical re-enactors to help engage children. “We strive for really, really happy visitors.”
The 11,000-square-foot center offers visitors a variety of exhibits and programs design to educate visitors about the Oregon, California, Mormon and Pony Express trails, according to its website. The trails all passed through central Wyoming.
On Dec. 31, center officials posted an apology on the museum’s Facebook page.
“Still no word on when we will re-open,” it states. “We’re so sorry to all the folks who are disappointed by the closure.”
It’s unclear exactly how many of the state’s roughly 5,000 federal employees are directly affected by the shutdown, which stems from lawmakers’ impasse over funding for a border wall, which President Donald Trump has made a signature priority. The shutdown does not appear close to ending. On Wednesday, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders met with Trump and administration officials, but the negotiations apparently went nowhere.
Essential services are still available, meaning some government employees are working without pay. Other services have been shut down and workers have been furloughed for the time being.