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Tourists find sites barricaded on National Mall

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Array | October 1, 2013 01:16 PM EST | AP


WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON (AP) — The museums that draw millions of visitors to the National Mall closed their doors Tuesday, memorials were barricaded and trash will go uncollected in the nation's most-visited national park due to the first government shutdown in 17 years.

Visitors found locked doors, black metal barricades and yellow caution tape blocking entrances to popular tourist attractions just hours after the shutdown. Fountains at the World War II Memorial were shut off.

"Why the heck does this have to be closed?" said Deb Cavender, 44, of Ames, Iowa, as she and her husband were making their way toward the memorial.

Tourists took pictures of signs on the barricades that read "Because of the Federal Government SHUTDOWN, All National Parks Are CLOSED."

One by one, the memorials were closed, along with about 45 fountains maintained by the National Park Service, said spokeswoman Carol Johnson. Pumps will be stopped at the Lincoln Memorial's long reflecting pool, but it won't be immediately drained.

Perhaps most noticeable: Trash pickup has ceased on the National Mall and in downtown Washington parks maintained by the National Park Service. In total, 330 workers from the National Mall have been furloughed.

Melinda MacNamara, 25, and her boyfriend Ian Keen, 31, were visiting from Australia. They toured the National Air and Space Museum and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Monday but were out of luck Tuesday when they found Smithsonian museums closed. The pair thought the outdoor monuments would be open but found barricades blocking their way.

"We're making the most of it," MacNamara said, adding that the sites seemed less crowded.

While government-run museums on the National Mall were closed, many other attractions planned to stay open for tourists. The group Cultural Tourism DC said there will be numerous arts and cultural options for visitors and residents. Steve Shulman, the group's executive director, said the shutdown may give visitors a chance to see different sites than they would normally visit.

Museums and attractions planning to stay open include the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Newseum, the International Spy Museum, National Geographic Museum, National Building Museum, The Phillips Collection and others.

Rebecca White, 35, and her husband Kevin White, 39, of Rochester, NY, were honeymooning in Washington on Tuesday and arrived at the American history museum only to find it closed. They said they were disappointed but would go to the Newseum or the International Spy Museum instead, two museums that aren't run by the government.

"We knew what was going on, but we didn't know this would be the result," Kevin White said of the museum's closed doors, which had printed signs reading "All Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are closed today due to the government shutdown."

Some federal arts facilities pay for their programs with private funds, including the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Ford's Theatre, the site where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. While both sites were closed to daytime visitors, the theaters will open for evening performances.

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Follow Brett Zongker at https://twitter.com/DCArtBeat and Jessica Gresko at https://twitter.com/jessicagresko .