Published: Sun, January 21, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Government shutdown won't close National Parks

Government shutdown won't close National Parks

At Olympic National Park, visitor services and the road to Hurricane Ridge will be closed.

The recent snow has long stretches of the Blue Ridge Parkway shutdown Friday, but as temperatures warm this weekend, it is questionable if government employees will be working so they can open the gates blocking access to the drive around Grandfather Mountain.

Access to Mount Rainier National Park will be free during the government shutdown, but the experience will be different than usual inside the park, said acting superintendent Tracy Swartout.

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. According to an official from the National Parks Service, likely closures include culturally sensitive areas with artifacts and places that pose safety hazards.

"Parks must notify visitors that the NPS will cease providing visitor services, including restrooms, trash collection, facilities and roads maintenance (including plowing), campground reservation and check-in/check-out services, backcountry and other permits, and public information", the plans said. Visitors centers will be closed and rangers will not be on the job.

Experiencing a government shutdown is not something the city of Gatlinburg wants to re-live. National forests will remain accessible, but are not officially open, said Agriculture Department spokesman Tim Murtaugh in an interview. "It's an irresponsible way to run parks", said Theresa Pierno, president of the National Parks Conservation Association. "Risking both visitors and important cultural sites to win political points is the height of irresponsibility".

Other national parks generally are expected to carry out similar plans.

"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", said Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift.

"Keeping parks open with virtually no staff is a risky situation, and the guidance park staff is being given is vague at best". They are popular with local businesses as well as the hundreds of millions of tourists who visit them annually - and turning visitors away is a potent way to highlight how the government shutdown is hurting real people.

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