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Around The Shutdown: Lodging Blues, Apologize To The Ranger, Oil Keeps Flowing


As the partial shutdown of the federal government moved past its third day, news tied to the National Park System didn't evaporate. A glance around the system shows hard times for lodging concessions, a particularly outspoken congressman, and questions about websites and oil production.

* Lodging Blues

As the government's idleness drags on, it's exacting a severe financial toll from the major park concessionaires. Xanterra Parks & Resorts, which operates in Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Zion, Crater Lake, Death Valley, and Rocky Mountain national parks, loses just about $1 million in revenues every day the parks remain closed. That number does not include the ongoing overhead in the form of utilities and employee wages.

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The Old Faithful Inn is a relatively quiet place these days. Xanterra Parks & Resorts photo.

While Xanterra isn't able to guarantee work and pay for its employees, it is providing lodging and meals for up to three weeks, either free or at a nominal fee, depending on whether those employees are working during the shutdown. Salaried staff are receiving pay for three weeks.

While the Furnace Creek Resort Xanterra runs at Death Valley National Park is actually located on private property and not required to shut down, some guests with reservations are phoning in cancellations, which is understandable when you realize the surrounding park is technically closed to visitors. Xanterra also is seeing cancellations for its train that runs from Williams, Arizona, to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, and for its Grand Hotel in nearby Tusayan, Arizona.

ARAMARK Parks and Destinations, meanwhile, has an interesting situation at Olympic National Park, where it operates at Lake Crescent Lodge, Sol Duc Hot Springs, and Lake Quinault Lodge. While Lake Crescent and Sol Duc are inside the park, and so closed during the shutdown, Lake Quinault is just outside the park's southern boundary in the Olympic National Forest and remains open for business.

The lodge's occupancy has been hovering around 50 percent  -- more on weekends, less on weekdays -- and is open year-round. You can check availability and make a reservation at this page. While you won't be able to enter the park unless the government gets back to work, there are lots of trails in the national forest to explore and enjoy.

* Apologize To The Ranger

U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, confronted a park ranger at the the World War II Memorial on the National Mall on Wednesday and got a bit outspoken in condemning the Park Service's handling of veterans wanting to visit the memorial.

Some visitors to the memorial took exception to the congressman's verbal tongue-lashing of the ranger, and complained that while the ranger was merely doing her job, Congress was failing at its.

The exchange between the Republican and the ranger, led to suggestions that people outraged by the congressman's behavior post "Apologize to the ranger" messages on his Facebook page.

* About Those Park Websites

It didn't take the National Park Service long to pull the plug on its park websites once the shutdown took effect. Some Internet surfers might wonder what the deal was, particularly when you consider 1) most of the content on park web pages is static, not posted daily, and 2) U.S. Forest Service websites were still operating.

Michael Litterest, a Park Service spokesman in Washington, said the decision to shutter the websites stemmed from the personnel needed to maintain them on a daily basis.

"All of the websites for the (Interior Department) bureaus are maintained in-house by our employees. Since all of those employees have been furloughed, there is no one to maintain, and with approximately 1 million hits per day, the site would crash without daily maintenance," he wrote in an email. "By contrast, some government agencies contract the maintenance of their sites and would be able to keep their sites live since the contractors wouldn't be affected by the shutdown.

"Of course, the sites were not taken down, per se; the pages still exists, we just added a service level redirect," he added. "The costs of that were negligible; essentially, it is the time that it takes to build a single page. That work was done by our Washington staff on Tuesday morning as part of the shutdown procedures before they went home."

* Oil Production From The Parks

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Gas production rolls on in the park system despite the shutdown. NPS photo of well at Padre Island National Seashore.

There are a small number of park system units where oil and gas production is not only allowed, but in operation. Big Thicket National Preserve and Padre Island National Seashore are two such units.

While those park units closed with the shutdown, the production did not cease.

"Oil and gas production is operated under a right-of-way, which conveys the legal right to access the sites, regardless of the status of appropriations," explained the Park Service's Mr. Litterest.





And with that, we're closed for business.

Hiker - the sad thing is that many folks here won't admit it.

ec, you are truly a gift that keeps on giving.

Hiker - the sad thing is that many folks here won't admit it.

ecbuck : "To spend more money to keep entities shut than it cost to keep them open is pure lunacy."

True, it is lunacy. And even if there was no cost involved at all, there is clearly no reason to do it -- other than pure mean-spirited reliation against citizens and workers. What the Obama administration is doing is (1) costly; (2) unnecessary; and (3) hideous because it does nothing more than target private citizens and working people.

Is this not happening Sara?

Has this place really been operating the last 30 years only with private funds or not?

The issue isn't the historical funding. The issue is does the operation require federal funds for its day to day operations. If it doesn't require funds from the feds during the shutdown, there is no reason it should be shut down. And if it can still operate - even at reduced service levels - without fed funds, it should be allowed to do so.

To spend more money to keep entities shut than it cost to keep them open is pure lunacy.

Actually, Claude Moore Colonial Farm took money from the Park Service in 1990.

"In 1990, after ten years of successful private operation of the Farm, the Congress, through the National Park Service, provided much-needed help with a $225,000 construction grant to replace the badly deteriorated 18th-century farm house and the maintenance/administrative facilities."

Also local DC Fox station, WTTG covered the story.

At the beginning of the story it says:

"Despite the fact that a local group has promised to pay for 100 percent of the operating costs, the National Park Service has closed down Claude Moore Colonial Farm"

later in the story it says:

"This history-oriented farm used to federally operated, but because of budget cuts in the early 1980s, a local non-profit in recent years has paid for 80 percent of the operating costs."

and this:

"As of October 1st, the Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm agreed to take over 100 percent of the costs of the facility."

Has this place really been operating the last 30 years only with private funds or not?

What Bill stated was 100% fact.

Punctuation and all!

Doesn't sound like a vacation to me.

If they are getting paid on days they don't have to show up. Its paid vacation.

And just to be clear, I am not blaming the workers. They are doing what they are told. But I am not giving them pity either. There is little doubt the Senate will go along and no doubt the shutdown will end. As has happened in the past they will get paid even though the work won't be done.

Again, if the House can vote for them to be paid, why can't they make it contingent on them showing up to work.

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