This past Friday night, the Federal Government shutdown due to lack of a signed budget bill to keep it operating. We can argue that this is due to the President digging his heals in over funding for an unnecessary border wall (Seriously there already are border fences, we have seen them, and bigger fences & walls just make for bigger ladders), but for those of us that enjoy the outdoors there is a bigger impact.
When the Federal Government shuts down, that means that nearly all of the services they provide and we pay for with our taxes comes to a halt. Included in that is the management and access to our National Parks, Forests, & Monuments, all of which provide us with camping and outdoor activities.
How Do You Close a National Park?
You may be asking yourself, “How does one close a National Park or Forest?”. Well, the easiest way is to close and chain the gates on the roads that lead into them, as has happened in the past. However, the Trump administration has instead opted to leave the gates open and just close up Visitor Centers, Restrooms, and other facilities. That also means there is no one there to keep the peace or keep people from doing dumb things and wrecking the place, as happened this past January during the last shutdown.
What To Expect If You Visit a National Park During a Government Shutdown
If you do decide to visit a National Park, Forest, or Monument during the shutdown you can expect to be on your own without any key services, but you will not be by yourself. Just because the parks are “closed” that does not mean people will stop coming.
During the January 2018 shutdown, issues were reported at busier parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone, as there were reports of chaos due to lack of traffic control, overflowing trash cans (or just trash on the ground), and a lack of restrooms.
All non-essential government services will be shutdown, which means that anything that requires maintenance will be closed or come to a halt.
- Visitor Centers will be shuttered
- No one will be manning the entry gates to charge you for entry
- Anything with plumbing such as restrooms will be closed (Vault & composting toilets may remain open).
- There will be no trash collection.
- No rangers will be onsite
- Designated Campgrounds will be Closed
States May Help Keep Things Running
There may be some states that step in to help keep things running in some instances. This happened during the last government shutdown, when the state of New York stepped in to help maintain access to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. This time around there are already some commitments from the Governors of Arizona & Utah.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has promised to provide services and funding to keep the Grand Canyon open and operating. This includes restroom maintenance, trash collection, and shuttle bus operation.
Utah’s Office of Tourism has made a similar promise to fund up keep and services at three of the five National Parks in the state.
This time of year tends to be one of the busiest for some National Parks, as people flock to visit snow covered vistas at places like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion, and the Grand Canyon. So, a lack of facilities in these places is less than ideal. I am sure in the coming days we will see the stories roll in of the dumb things people have done in our National Parks and Public Lands, because someone decided to leave the gate open.