Government shutdown won't close National Parks

Government shutdown won't close National Parks

January 19th, 2018 by Mark Pace in Breaking News

Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park staff historian Jim Ogden leads a 2-hour walk detailing the Battle of Missionary Ridge at Sherman's Reservation on November 19, 2017. The battle which occurred on November 25, 1863 was the last in three days of fighting in which the Union Army gained full control of the city. The park service plans events this week to commemorate the 154th anniversary of the struggle.

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

More Information

Example of services that could be open: a free-standing gift shop, lodge, restaurant or gas station that requires no assistance from the Park to operate. "Assistance" would include but not be limited to snow removal, working as a cashier, unlocking gates, etc. However, if a private concessionaire has worked out in advance a way to remove snow, trash, etc, without the assistance of the park, they MAY be able to continue operations.

Example of services that would not be open: a gift shop inside a visitors center would not be open because a Park ranger would not be available to unlock the visitors center or to staff the visitors center. A gas station on a road inside the park where it snowed overnight making it impassible would not be open if it relies on park snow removal.

Example of areas that may see restricted access: Due to lighter footprint of rangers and patrols, some trails and sites may see restricted access. Some parks are in winter season and see winter sports enthusiasts like snowmobilers, snowshoers, skiers and wildlife watchers. Other parks like Death Valley and Everglades are in peak season. The Parks may decide to restrict access to some areas if there is a high risk (example avalanche) or it's a common spot for injuries since there will not be a regular patrol of the area. Additionally, sensitive cultural areas on all public land may see restricted access to protect the artifacts and objects.

Examples of areas being prioritized: The federal government is prioritizing access to the most accessible and most iconic areas of parks and public lands. Each park, monument, recreation area, etc will have different plans in place.

Source: U.S. Department of the Interior

National Parks and other federal public land will primarily remain open even if the government shuts down tonight, according to Department of Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift.

"We fully expect the government to remain open, however in the event of a shutdown, National Parks and other public lands will remain as accessible as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures," Swift wrote in a statement.

Locally, Point Park and the visitor centers at Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park will be closed because they require staffing. 

"Most of our park roads and trails will remain open," park superintendent Brad Bennett said. "However, features that require staffing will be closed."

Park closures became a central public issue during the 2013 government shutdown under the Obama administration. Workers reported to help shutter operations such as locking gates, putting steel bands around port-o-potties and even removing handles from water fountains. Barricades were placed around memorials, and veterans who had traveled to see monuments were kept out. Federal employees want to ensure that does not happen again.

"The American public and especially our veterans who come to our nation's capital should find war memorials and open air parks open to the public," Swift wrote in a statement. "Additionally many of our National Parks, refuges and other public lands will still try to allow limited access wherever possible."

Services that require staffing and maintenance; such as campgrounds, full service restrooms and concessions; will not be operating during the potential shutdown. Areas with culturally sensitive or potentially dangerous backcountry areas may have restricted access, Swift wrote.

State parks would be unaffected by a government shutdown.