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St. Augustine tourism leaders worried about fort closure

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Updated: 10/01/2013 11:51 pm
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Closed signs covered the entrance to the Castillo de San Marcos on Tuesday leaving tourists disappointed and city leaders worried. The closure of national parks is one of the many expected as the government shutdown continues.
 
The nation's oldest masonry fort draws about 800,000 visitors to St. Augustine every year. It's the reason Tony Panetta and his family traveled all the way from New York.
 
"We're actually very disappointed it was closed," said Panetta.
 
Only law enforcement rangers were seen patrolling the fort today, because every other employee is forced to sit at home with no pay.
 
According to the 450th commemoration director Dana Ste. Claire, if it stays closed long enough, St. Augustine's tourism industry could be affected.

"It is our barometer, we can measure the growth of tourism based on the attendance of the Castillo de San Marcos," said Ste. Claire. 

Ste. Claire said they've come up with a backup plan to minimize the impact in case the shutdown drags on.

"We're trying to get the message out to as many people as possible. There are so many other things to do in St. Augustine," he said.
 
For now, Ste. Claire does not expect people to change their plans given that 40 other attractions are in St. Augustine.
 
Another St. Johns County national park, Fort Matanzas, is also closed.
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