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Visitor Center Boss Says Fed Snub On Reopening Hurts Philly Tourists

UPDATE: National Park Service explains Its refusal to allow center to open.
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(The Independence Visitor Center, in file photo.  Credit: Mike Dougherty)

(The Independence Visitor Center, in file photo. Credit: Mike Dougherty)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The head of the Independence Visitor Center, which has been closed since the federal government shutdown began, is frustrated this morning.  He says the feds have rejected his plan to reopen the center at no cost to Washington.

The Visitor Center, at 6th and Market Streets, is on federal property but gets only one-fifth of its funding from the federal government.

So when Visitor Center CEO James Cuorato learned over the weekend that the feds were allowing some tourism sites to reopen with state money, he contacted the National Park Service with his own proposal.

“We proposed reopening the Independence Visitor Center at no cost to the federal government,” Cuorato tells KYW Newsradio.  “We have earned income that we can use to fund normal operations.  And we could have been open Saturday, when these agreements started being announced nationwide.   We could have been open with one to two hours’ notice.  That request was turned down,” he says.

Cuorato is frustrated that the feds turned him down, and now expects the center to remain closed until the shutdown is resolved.

But he says it’s unfair to tourists:

“We have been watching thousands of visitors through the historic area, many of whom come up to the doors of our building and pull on locked doors.  We see a lot of disappointment.  And we see a lot of visitors just not getting the full Philadelphia experience.”

Cuorato says the Visitor Center would usually get 6,000-9,000 visitors a day during fall weekdays, and 12,000-15,000 per day on weekends.

October, he notes, is a big month for international tourists to visit Philadelphia.

In response to Cuorato’s comments, the National Park Service released a statement late this afternoon saying the only way the Visitor Center could reopen now is if Gov. Tom Corbett agreed to fund a reopening of the entire Independence National Historical Park.

The Park Service, according to the statement, “is not agreeing to reopen individual facilities within any national parks closed during the shutdown.”

Gov. Corbett has already ruled out the use of state funds to reopen federal sites in Pennsylvania (see related story).

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