As the partial government shutdown in our country enters its third week with no signs of a resolution on the horizon, many communities are starting to feel the effects in a big way. This is especially true of areas that border or house the nation’s national park sites, over a third of which have been completely closed in the wake of the shutdown.
Those that remain open have been able to do so thanks to a mix of creative budgeting, private donations, and supplemental funding from partner groups and state governments. However, in spite of their best efforts, the shutdown drags on and many park superintendents have been forced to close large swaths of national park land citing health and safety concerns, in addition to a lack of necessary workers.
According to estimates by the National Parks Conservation Association, the immediate result of the government shutdown the National Park Service has been losing about $400,000 a day from entrance fee revenue. Furthermore, over 75% of the Park Service’s 20,000 employees have been deemed to be “non-essential staff,” meaning that nearly 16,000 employees have gone without pay for the last few weeks with no guarantee of reimbursement when the shutdown ends.
To make matters worse, the Park Service and its employees aren’t the only ones feeling the negative monetary effects from these closures; the “NPCA estimates that on an average day in January, 425,000 park visitors spend $20 million in nearby communities,” meaning that the individuals and businesses that depend on neighboring national parks could end up receiving the brunt end of the stick if a solution isn’t reached soon. Sadly, this is true for nearly every state in the country, Colorado being no exception.
In Colorado the following parks have released alerts concerning the shutdown:
- Colorado National Monument – During the federal government shutdown, Colorado National Monument will remain open. However, there will be no visitor services, and hazardous or dangerous conditions may exist. Call 911 for emergencies.
- Dinosaur National Monument – During the government shutdown, the Quarry Exhibit Hall and Visitor Center are closed. Roads and trails at Dinosaur National Monument will remain accessible unless safety concerns warrant their closure. Emergency and rescue services will be limited.
- Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument – Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument will be closed during the government shutdown.
- Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve – During the government shutdown, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve will remain open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, as it always is. However, the visitor center and entrance station will remain closed and no visitor services will be available. In addition, parking lots may be closed due to the lack of snow removal, be aware that hazardous or dangerous conditions may exist. The Medano Pass Primitive Road, from Castle Creek picnic area to the top of the pass, is closed for the season and will remain closed in these areas during the government shutdown. In case of an emergency, visitors to the park should call 911.
- Hovenweep National Monument – During the federal government shutdown, Hovenweep will remain open. However, there will be no visitor services, and hazardous or dangerous conditions may exist. Emergency information may be shared on our Facebook account; call 911 for emergencies.
- Mesa Verde National Park – During the federal government shutdown, Mesa Verde will remain open. However, all visitor facilities and services are closed, and hazardous or dangerous conditions may exist. Call 911 for emergencies.
- Rocky Mountain National Park – Rocky Mountain National Park will have limited road access by vehicle but will remain accessible to pedestrians and bicycles during the lapse in federal appropriations. Due to incoming forecasted weather for snowfall accumulation on Sunday, December 30, US 36 will be closed past Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and US 34 will be closed past Fall River Entrance to vehicles at 5 pm. These road closures will remain in effect until further notice.Park staff are beginning to close restroom facilities and trash receptacles at many park locations due to human waste issues, wildlife concerns and overall public health.Due to road conditions from recent snowfall and blowing and drifting snow and ice combined with the inability to snowplow, sand or otherwise maintain the roads, gates remain closed past the Wild Basin Entrance on the Wild Basin Road and at the Grand Lake Entrance on US 34. Sections of roads are above 8,000 feet in elevation and are closed to vehicular traffic. Vehicles may not move barriers or travel off road to pass closed gates. It is uncertain whether these roads will reopen until after the shutdown. Limited road areas in other areas of the park remain open to vehicle travel.Park visitors are advised to use extreme caution if choosing to enter the park on foot, bicycle or in limited legal areas via vehicles, as park personnel will not be available to provide guidance or assistance. Emergency services will be limited. Any entry to the park during this period of federal government shutdown is at the visitor’s sole risk. All rules and regulations still apply (Yep, that includes cannabis use).
No visitor services will be provided. Services that require staffing and maintenance, such as snow plowing, entrance stations, the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, the Kawuneeche Visitor Center, Moraine Park Campground, and some restroom facilities will not be operating. Roads that are already open will remain open, weather and road conditions permitting. Park staff will not issue permits, conduct educational programs, collect trash, maintain restrooms, maintain roads or walkways in the event of snow or ice, or provide visitor information.
Additional roads or areas in Rocky Mountain National Park may be closed during the government shutdown if conditions warrant.
- Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site – Due to the lapse in federal funding, Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site will be closed until further notice. No visitor services will be available, and all park facilities will be closed for resource protection and visitor safety.
For more information regarding national park closures you can visit the National Park Service website.