This park CLOSED due to Government Shutdown…

Government Shutdown of National Parks

As of Tuesday, October first, the Government Shutdown left all National Parks closed to the public.  This meant those of us planning trips into the parks would be turned away, and those already staying in the parks would be forced out.  This meant tourists and travelers from all over the world would be disappointed, local tour companies would lose millions, and the small towns who rely on the parks for income would be crushed.

The National Park Service manages over 400 specific locations and countless others fall under the larger umbrella of the Department of the Interior leaving many of our public spaces either closed completely, or restricted.  Most of us have heard of the group of WWII vets, a small group as there are not many left, making a special pilgrimage to their WWII monument at the National Mall.  They were turned away at a time when most of them may not have another chance to visit.

The media told their story, but we want to hear yours.  How has the National Park closure affected you?

 

While my wife and I spent a good chunk of money to plan our first anniversary visiting Volcanoes National Park, our story was not the most heartbreaking.  Others had saved for many years in hopes of a visit.  For some, this last week may have been their only chance.  But personal stories aside, the public lands closure has brought up some questions about what is really important?

Should public access to these lands be placed on the same level as the Military, Social Security and Medicare?   Should funding be made a higher priority?

 

With really no end in sight and the government shutdown closing so many areas, many people have been left to figure out an alternative plan.  If you were planning a park visit, do you delay the plans or simply continue will looking for other options in case the closures continue?  For my part, I had another 3 or 4 parks I was planning to visit within the next few months and I don’t know if those will happen now.  I’d like to think they will, but I do have to consider that my options will be limited.

So, how have the closures changed your travel plans?  Has it changed the way you look at our Public Spaces? 

 

With the parks closed now is a PERFECT time to submit your stories and help us show the people, and the government, why these areas deserve to remain open.

Comments

  1. Wilderness Dave says:

    For us, we had literally planned our entire anniversary trip around Volcanoes National Park. We specifically planned to stay a night in Honolulu just to see the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. The closure went into effect the day after we arrived in Honolulu so we didn’t get to see anything we had planned for.

    We made the best of it, as we always do, but it was heartbreaking to know that we had saved and planned to see the Volcano lava flows at the NP and we wouldn’t be allowed to. Every day we woke up thinking, “maybe they’ll open today…check the news!” Then had to find something else to do.

    The next trip planned was to spend my birthday exploring Death Valley NP. Hopefully this is resolved before then…

  2. We planned to visit Solvang for our 10th anniversary and then head north to Big Sur and Monterey before making our way north east to Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks.

    In hindsight, we should have done the loop in reverse. We pulled into the Yosemite Lodge on Sunday with plans to stay until Thursday and then shoot south to spend 3 days in Kings/Sequoia. Ultimately, we left Yosemite a day early and were forced to scrap Kings Canyon and Sequoia altogether.

    It’s not a huge challenge to just revisit those two parks in the Spring, but we went through a bunch of crap to get clearance from the school district to have our oldest son miss 7 days of school for what promised to be an epic trip.

    As it turned out, we spent the last 3 days on the beach in Santa Barbara…not a bad Plan B but far short of our original plan.

    I feel bad for all the international visitors that were scrambling to make new plans with what had to be the worst internet service imaginable. Did the Feds find a way to shutter that too in Yosemite? Wouldn’t surprise me.

  3. Amelia Mayer says:

    Sigh – what a mess for us all! We live in Yellowstone so are in the midst of it, but feel so bad for the number of visitors that have their plans changed drastically. Living here, we are very restricted too with what we can and can’t do. We aren’t supposed to stop and enjoy any of the Park (which means not being able to walk on any trails in the area or take photos supposedly.) But, I’m sorry – when I see a grizz on the side of the road feasting on a huge bull elk that fell into some misfortune, I am going to take photos.

    It’s certainly a point of debate for everyone but sure makes life interesting for us all, especially those families relying on a paycheck from the government. We are limited like everyone else (which I think we all agree is ridiculous) and yet can’t get away from it. Hoping for a resolution soon!

    • Wilderness Dave says:

      Do you guys actually live in the park? I’ve heard of several private residents being forced to leave their homes because they live in the park, or access their homes through the parks. Lake Mead National Recreation Area just kicked out several residents. Volcanoes NP had several full time residents managing the private art gallery and the lodge, they were forced to leave.

      This whole “It’s closed, don’t look at it!” mentality is laughable, but tragic. I do somewhat understand the closure from a safety and resource protection stand point, but to kick out those people who live there and to keep people from viewing and photographing public land is beyond me.

      • Amelia Mayer says:

        Yes, we do. But we are required occupants so not sure if that makes a difference??? No one has been kicked out here that I know of. What a MESS!!

        ANd yes, it’s beyond me. Truly.

    • It’s funny that we were told the same thing by the Ranger ushering us out of Yosemite. She was saying it with a grin so I took it as her just trying to relate. I guess if it’s official policy then the entire exchange is even more humorous to me. Sure, I will leave and I won’t look at anything. P.S. Can you please process my prepaid room charge refund a little faster.

      Sorry that you all are going through this. What a crock. Hopefully, there will be a quick resolution and we can all move on. But it may take longer to forget these ridiculous actions.

  4. Julie Carter Clark says:

    It is a pretty ridiculous situation and while the closures haven’t been an issue for me in terms of a vacation, I live near the Redwoods National Park and a couple of places that I frequent have been closed. I have thus far ignored the signs, which have been pretty minimal, because I am of the opinion that you can’t close a beach. In fact the beaches that are “closed” are easily accessible by just walking down the beach. I did get stopped by a ranger on my way out on Sunday, he was friendly and seemed just as annoyed by the situation as I was. He said that currently there are 7 of them still on duty covering our area while 121 have been furloughed. Odds are I will go back to the beach, avoiding the signs again, hopefully the rangers keep in good humor and I don’t get ticketed for being a rebel and just wanting my quiet beach time 🙂

    • Storm the beach! Ok, a bit dramatic but I don’t think anyone is really going to mind.

      • Julie Carter Clark says:

        I’m planning on storming said beach and occupying it! lol I like a little drama now and then, besides it is a quiet, secluded beach and I did a good bit of litter patrol while I was there. So yeah….another sunny day on the coast, I might storm the beach after work.

        • Wilderness Dave says:

          Such a rebel! It would be an interesting story to get a group together to do beach litter pick up and see what the rangers do. Oh, you’re here doing something good and productive in the service of the parks? Sorry, you have to leave…

  5. Last Adventurer says:

    1) First off, Dave; Tim; anyone else whose vacations were ruined, I feel bad for all of you. That is definitely a bad situation to be placed in, and one that is a major bummer. (I’d use some other words, but hey, I’m gonna keep it family friendly). I also feel bad for any international guests who came to the parks and could not gain access – that would definitely ruin your trip, and is a black eye for the US. I can think of many National Parks I’ve visited in foreign countries – or trips I took specifically to visit said parks, and I would have been livid if I had ever been turned around for something like this.

    2) Second, inholdings, or private land in parks technically carries with it some restrictions – depends on when the land was acquired, or when the park enveloped the land. I’d be surprised to hear stories of people on private land being “forced” to leave, but then again, there are some situations where, legally, when you take possession of the land, you know that under certain circumstances your rights are limited.

    3) To the main question, should parks be funded as a top priority. My heart says yes; but my head says that if we’re going to live in a society of laws and of men with a social contract, the answer is no, as there’s just too many other “top” priorities – defense, first responders, education, bondholders, healthcare, etc., etc., etc. Personally, would I like to see a larger sea change where the environment and other priorities are placed before current priorities? Heck yeah! But, a discussion about a sea change can’t even commence without a working government, so, in dreamland it will stay.

    4) Have I been impacted? I suppose on a theoretical level. I do visit a lot of National Parks, and do have a number of spots that I want to go/go back to. It is definitely a bummer not to have those options at the moment. Then again, there’s so many great places to go in the State systems that I also want to visit/go back to, there’s plenty of room there to pick up the slack. Also, it’s not like I am out on vacation at the moment, so any plans I have in the pipeline can be altered. It’s definitely an annoyance though; and could become more depending on how long things are shut down.

    • You always bring more rational thought than I tend to! I would agree with you on all of this but I am still a bit heated given my recent trip and the collapse of the second half of the itinerary.

  6. Here’s a new webcam view from Mount Rainier, updated and streaming even during the shutdown–this one will be a beauty to see when the clouds lift! Thanks to all of the NPS personnel for helping to make our parks such awesome places–let’s hope for a speedy and sensible resolution to the shutdown. Image by National Park Service. Webcam capture by Westernlabs.

  7. calipidder says:

    I don’t have a lot to contribute, other than the tale of a vacation gone bad. I’m sure my story parallels thousands of others – people who have spend hundreds and thousands of dollars for the vacation of a lifetime, only to have it ruined by some petty toddlers in Congress.

    I’m currently sitting in Fort Collins, CO, after trying to work my planned vacation through Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Yellowstone was completely shut off, but Grand Teton is a bit more accessible. The east side of the park has several options, especially with our 4×4 truck. All things considered, we didn’t lose much in terms of dollars.

    But it was still extremely disappointing. What was even more frightening was sitting in a pizza place in West Yellowstone next to a park employee who was eating up his entire season’s savings covering his living costs wondering if he would be allowed back into the park to work. The entire town was a ghost town. When I booked my hotel months ago it was one of the only places left in town, but it was completely empty this week. They are losing a ton of money.

    I’m happy that my friends who work for the government will likely get back pay. But the surrounding communities won’t be compensated. it pisses me off, these are the communities rub run by people I love and respect. There are only so many $2 coffees I can buy.

    And on a purely selfish level, they better have this figured out by the time my Subway permit is good in Zion next Wednesday. Grrr.

    • Wilderness Dave says:

      My thoughts were similarly selfish, they better have this figured out by my birthday trip to Death Valley…Grrr.

      The local economic impact is the most tragic part of this. I get protection. I can look past my personal situation. The NPS is such a minuscule percentage of the National Budget that I don’t understand how it doesn’t fall into the category of “automatically funded” services. Keep the parks open and funded regardless of the political side-show going on in DC.

      Glad to see the states step in, at least for the local economies, but there will be consequences later for that.

    • Looks like you will be able to do the Subway, right? I certainly hope so. It was on my list for this year but I couldn’t make it happen. I hope to live vicariously through you!

  8. valinreallife says:

    Ok, I’ve been stewing on the “essential” debate for a few days, trying to reconcile my personal attachment to the parks with the practicalities of life. And you know what… our entire system of national lands ARE essential. After much consideration, I find myself angry that this is even being debated. So aside from the touchy-feely love of parks, let me throw out a few points:

    1. Economy. The reach of tourism dollars lost is enormous. Outfitters, lodges, restaurants, etc… larger outfits may weather it ok but for mom-and-pop operations this could be fatal. They would argue that keeping parks open is QUITE essential.

    2. Education #1: My beloved Tremont, an educational institute in the Smokies, is shut down. Kids are missing out on once-in-a-lifetime educational experiences that can change the course of their lives. http://valinreallife.com/2012/09/04/tremont-kids-have-their-say/

    3. Education #2: Parks are a large part of my road-schooling paradigm. My kids (& many others obviously) have had their classroom shut down.

    4. Just a vacation? I take issue with calling travel “just” a vacation but that’s a side point. I, personally, am missing out on travel that is professional development. Two photo workshops based out of national parks are in jeopardy for me. Given that I can’t get refunds for various reservations made, it’s not like I can just have a do-over later.

    Are there alternative outlets to be had during the shutdown? Of course. I’ve made adjustments where I can but when I look at the impact on my life and my friends who live and work in or near parks, I can’t call parks non-essential. This is more than just a bummer or inconvenience… it’s my life, it’s theirs, it’s ours… and it’s being taken from us over a giant pissing match.

    Rant over… for now.

    • Wilderness Dave says:

      1. Most of these are pretty tight local communities supporting these parks. Not big corporations. We saw this when the Rogue was shut down in Oregon during peak whitewater season due to the fire. Devastated all the local outfitters who rely on July and August to pay for their entire year.

      2-3. These natural places are classrooms for everyone, not just the kids. These spaces are also physical therapy, counseling, gyms, hospitals, salvation and connection for people. Granted there are other places we could visit (state/county parks etc) but these are part of the National Park System because they are extra special.

      4. You and I are apart from most on this one, but I agree with you. There were researchers working on grants with delivery deadlines that were forced to leave the observatories in Hawaii. Grad students working on their research of sensitive and unique habitats within the parks have been sent home with incomplete work…maybe delaying their graduation and forcing them to accept another semester (or more) of school debt.

      I will disagree that it is being taken from us because of a giant pissing match. That is what caused the closure, but beyond that we have been locked out of these spaces because we can not be trusted with them without supervision. This is the part that I find so sorrowful. That we, as a society, are so childish, disrespectful and destructive with what we have that we can not be trusted even to “walk in the woods” alone. Because the sad truth is, a not-insignificant percentage of unsupervised people in the parks would undoubtedly cause irreparable damage. Litter, Vandalism, Fire, Theft, etc….it’s what people do.

      People like us, who think about the parks, respect the land, leave it BETTER than we found it…are the minority.

  9. climbrunliftmom says:

    I’m not a huge fan of national parks personally, I much prefer secluded backcountry type places over the crowded touristy places. BUT, I definitely see their value in protecting our priceless outdoor spaces and the benefit to the economy. I think defunding them during the shutdown was absolutely ridiculous as it heavily impacted my home state financially and has directly affected many people I know that work in those places and are suddenly out of work and can’t take care of their families. Despite the fact that I don’t enjoy the conga line of tourists at these places, I’m glad to see people getting outdoors and I do think parks are an incredibly invaluable resources for future generations and should definitely have higher priority than they do now.

    • I think a lot of people share this same sentiment. It really doesn’t matter how often someone visits, or if they visit at all. The value is tremendous and I’m happy to see people rallying for the Parks regardless of their personal travel plans.

      • climbrunliftmom says:

        When I was in the Moab area this wknd, the line of cars waiting to get into Arches was longer than I had ever seen. It was really reassuring that Utah is doing the right thing by getting them opened back up (even if it may only be temporary). It was great to see Moab flourishing like normal. Even though I headed straight out the chaos as fast as I could, lol.

        • Wilderness Dave says:

          That’s awesome. I almost drove up there myself from Phoenix (except that work wasn’t cooperating). Grand Canyon had a slow start, but there were visitors pushing money into the economy and that’s what matters. I am glad they finally worked out a deal to let the states fund, even if temporarily, the parks they rely on. At first, the fed denied offers from the sates so it’s at least a step in the right direction.

  10. Wilderness Dave says:

    Oh Val….we can discuss “essential” services over whiskey soon. That’s a whole other conversation. 😉

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