Update 3: Closed For Business: America's National Parks

Traffic typically backs up at the entrance gates in Shenandoah National Park in October with tourists looking to enjoy the fall colors, but the government shutdown could leave those sights behind gates for some time. Kurt Repanshek file photo.

Editor's note: This updates with details from Grand Canyon National Park, comments from tourism officials in Moab, Utah, and West Yellowstone, Montana, details on economic impacts to communities near Shenandoah National Park, Park Service statistics on impacts.

Once-in-a-lifetime trips to majestic places such as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone crumbled Tuesday as Congress's failure to avert a shutdown of the federal government interrupted countless vacation plans as closure gates came down across the National Park System.

Japanese tourists fell short of their goal to stand on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Australian visitors were locked out of Yellowstone National Park, and Germans and Canadians on bus tours to Arches and Canyonlands national parks were wondering how the U.S. Congress could turn its back on Americans.

“They cannot even fathom a government that would take away the pay of a peon and keep their own and not be concerned about it," Marian DeLay, executive director of the Moab (Utah) Area Travel Council, said after meeting foreign visitors in a Moab diner Tuesday morning. “What do other countries think about our situation? What do other countries think about our leadership?”

From A to Z -- Acadia National Park to Zion National Park -- the park system began closing just after midnight. Day visitors were to be turned away from each of the 401 units of the park system Tuesday, while guests in lodges and campgrounds were given until 6 p.m. EDT Thursday to pack their belongings and leave.

According to the National Park Service, 15,000 people a day visit the Statue of Liberty; during the government shutdown, their reservations will be canceled. Economically, the shutdown is costing the agency $450,000 a day in lost fees from entrance gates, cave tours, and campgrounds.

"These poor folks, it's such a bad deal," Jean Seiler, the marketing director for Ruby's Inn that offers lodging and park-related activities at the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, said Tuesday morning. "People (who arrived Monday) kind of had a sense that something was going on, but the ones that are arriving this afternoon, that’s really going to be something. Basically, anyone with reservations inside a park has 48 hours to leave.”

“We’re seeing a lot of cancellations as the word gets out. We’re doing our best to keep current on what’s available," he said. "Phones are ringing, but it's not to make reservations."

Across the Internet, all nps.gov websites were shut down, leaving viewers with a message to go to doi.gov, but that link didn't seem to be working properly. Park twitter feeds were halted, and Facebook pages went inactive.

In Moab, hotels and motels were being asked to refund money put down for room reservations. The loss in business couldn't come at a worse time, said Ms. DeLay, as the Colorado River town's businesses look forward to a strong October to help them get through the slow winter months. However, she added, Moab is better off than many other park gateway communities as there is more to do in the area than just visit the parks.

"We’re pretty fortunate in the short term," she said. "Moab isn’t really all about the national parks. We have so many other activities to do."

She ticked off a number of other activities, from standing on the brink of Deadhorse Point State Park to gaze down onto the goosenecks of the Colorado River and daily river trips down the river outside the two parks to exploring the canyon country on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands and taking scenic drives into the nearby LaSal Mountains. Those and more options were listed on the travel bureau's website.

"These kinds of things are still available. But everybody doesn't have that option,” said Ms. DeLay.

At Ruby's Inn, Mr. Seiler said visitors were being pointed to scenic Highway 12, which runs from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef National Park, passing through national forest lands, rugged red-rock landscapes, and stunning scenery such as that found at Calf Creek Falls.

"We're directing people to see Bryce from our own property. We’re really pushing them where we can, onto Highway 12, because that’s still a lot to do and see, and the state parks are still open," he said. "But it’s these big bus tours and groups that are struggling.”

The same scenario was playing out in West Yellowstone, Montana, where tourists from as far away as Australia were unable to achieve a life-long dream of seeing Old Faithful fume, sputter, and spout.

"This is on their bucket list, and there's no bucket," said Marysue Costello, executive director of the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce.

“All we can do is help them the best we can help them. I just feel so badly for them. In many cases, it will be their only trip to the U.S., so it's a tough one," she said.

At the Grand Canyon, park spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge said the South Rim's entrance gates were closed, day visitors were being turned away, and lodging and campground guests were given 48 hours to leave the park. Nearby at the gateway town of Tusyan, a family from Japan had its dream of gazing into the deep maw of the canyon gutted, at least for one day.

"This had been a lifetime trip that they wanted to make, and they were turned away," Ms. Oltrogge related.

Wedding plans to exchange vows on the South Rim were crushed, continued Ms. Oltrogge, and river runners who had waited years to land a permit to float the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon were told they couldn't launch Tuesday. Those that put in Monday, however, would be allowed to complete their trips, she said.

The Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau was being kept busy with "numerous calls from tour bus operations and vistors as to where they can go,” the park spokeswoman said.

Other gateway communities sure to be stung if the shutdown isn't lifted soon include Bar Harbor, Maine, the main entrance to Acadia; Gatlingburg, Tennessee, and Cherokee, North Carolina, at Great Smoky Mountains, and; the many towns that surround Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, where the Skyline Drive was closed. Those communities in particular benefit from tourists coming to see the vivid change of season that cloaks their forests.

According to the Shenandoah National Park Trust, "(N)early 25 percent of the visitors to Shenandoah National Park come in the month of October alone, and many of those visitors spend time and money in neighboring communities. The park estimates that visitors to Shenandoah in October generate $10 million+ in gateway communities during that same period."

While the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Newfound Gap Road across Great Smoky Mountains National Park would remain open, park visitor centers, pullouts, and overlooks along those roads would be closed.

In South Dakota, Gov. Dennis Daugaard offered to use state resources to keep Mount Rushmore National Memorial open, but was told the Park Service couldn't accept that help.

Park Service Director Jon Jarvis declined to comment on the situation. However, in a memo he sent Monday evening to all Park Service employees the director tried to bolster the workforce.

"I know that these are difficult times. A shutdown will disrupt our work and the lives of those who count on us – national park visitors who come to us for world-class educational and recreational experiences and communities across the country who rely on us for help to preserve their history and create healthy outdoor activities for their neighbors. It will also disrupt your lives and that of your families and for that I am sorry," Director Jarvis wrote.

"You are the backbone of this organization. Your dedication to our mission is unquestioned and unrivaled. It is an honor to work with you. And I promise that we will get through this and return to work to serve the American people as we have for nearly 100 years."

In Washington, D.C., the National Parks Conservation Association expressed its "deep disappointment" that the Congress and the White House couldn't find a solution to keep the federal government, and the parks, open.

“The closure of America’s crown jewels threatens the livelihood of park businesses and gateway communities; the more than 21,000 National Park Service staff we expect to be furloughed; and countless American families and international visitors who rely on national parks being open for business to enjoy our national heritage," the NPCA said in a prepared statement.

“The government shutdown has forced the National Park Service to close park entrances, visitor centers, campgrounds, bathrooms, concession stands, and other park facilities. Education programs and special events have been canceled, permits issued for special activities rescinded, hotels and campgrounds emptied and entrances secured."

“As we approach the centennial of our national parks in 2016, on behalf of our 800,000 members and supporters, and families and businesses throughout the nation, we call on Congress and the President to swiftly re-open our national parks to visitors, and to agree to a budget that ends these indiscriminate cuts to the National Park Service.”

The Association of Partners for Public Lands, a coalition of not-for-profit businesses dedicated to supporting America’s public lands, said more than 1,000 of its employes were unable to report to their jobs in the park system.

"This government shutdown leads not only to the immediate furlough of federal workers, but to the displacement of thousands of private sector staff creating unnecessary hardships for their families. If the shutdown has not ended by the end of this week, over half of these private sector workers will be furloughed," APPL said in a prepared statement.

"A prolonged standoff will have devastating impacts on the financial health of these nonprofit organizations. Yet because our member organizations reinvest their profits in our lands, the true costs of this shutdown will ultimately be borne by the American people in the form of trails in disrepair, reduced interpretive programming and decreased youth education. As public lands are economic engines for urban and local economies across the United States, the potential ripple effects are enormous.

"APPL strongly urges the U.S. Congress to end the federal government shutdown and restore necessary funding to America’s public lands.”

Back at Ruby's Inn, Mr. Seiler said he hadn't had a chance to call Utah's congressional delegation: "I'm way more interested in trying to help these folks than worrying about those politicians. They’re dysfunctional enough.”

Over in Moab, Ms. DeLay said "one of my focuses for today is to fashion some kind of a letter coming from the tourism office to our (congressional) representatives saying something like 'You have to make sure this ends. You cannot do this to our community.'”


What is the logic of closing pullouts and overlooks? There is no incremental funding for those.

Visit: http://www.craterlakelodges.com/webcam/

Enjoy The Sea of Silence

(named by poet Joaquin Miller prior to the first noisy vehicles, 1909)

Time for the Natural World to enjoy the beautiful sublime

QUIET the Shutdown will bring:

For now, no more noisy, smelly diesel buses, trucks, motor-homes, obnoxious visitors, taxpayers...?

Good question, ec. The logic is that pull offs and turn outs in national park areas are naturals for accidents just like lots of parking lots in your hometown. Except, in this case, there are limited emergency responders to deal with injuries or blocked highways. Closing them is a way to proactively deal with this issue..


Out here in the San Francisco bay, the story this morning was how foreign tourists were pissed off. Alcatraz, Sequoia National Parks, Muir Woods, Yosemite, etc are all closed. I feel bad for the poor guy who saved money for the trip of a lifetime and won't get to see anything.

So are the pull offs and rest stations on the interstates closed?

Seems to me the road itself would have far more accidents requiring emergency responders than would pull offs and turnouts. But this is just a gut feel, I don't have the stats to back that up.

Park Police let a group of WWII vets from an honor flight take down the barriers to access the WWII Memorial on the National Mall.


Stars and Stripes has a little different account of the event:


I suspect that closing of pullouts, parking lots and other points of access has much more to do with maximizing the inconvenience of the "shutdown" than it does traffic safety... I have frequently accessed Florissant Fossil Beds in Colorado even though it's closed at sundown by simply parking outside the barrier. Lots of people do.... Recently, I toured the loop around the Pearidge site in Arkansas from sunrise until 0900 when the visitor center opened, even though the sign said 'closed'. Maintenance personnel were using the road but none bothered us...

I doubt that anyone is accessing either of those sites today.

The situation at the WWII memorial this morning is a good illustration... although 'closed' members of the public 'opened' the site. The memorial requires no administration other than security and those folks are 'essential' and still on the job today...Why should people not be allowed to visit?

I believe the reason the Newfound Gap Road across Great Smoky Mountains National Park is remaining open is because it's a numbered, U.S. Highway, not just a park road. I don't know what the explanation is for the Blue Ridge Parkway staying open, but suspect it may be that the large number of access points onto the road along its 469-mile length make it impractical to keep it closed. One fairly lenghty section of the Blue Ridge Pkwy is also the only access to the popular Mt. Mitchell State Park, so perhaps similar situations prevail elsewhere along that road.

I suspect that closing of pullouts, parking lots and other points of access has much more to do with maximizing the inconvenience of the "shutdown" than it does traffic safety.


Boy, this is going to create quite the conundrum for many of you:


In Missouri, Ozark Trail maintenance and construction crews have had to call off any work being done on fed lands, which for the OT means National Park and National Forest. The trail also passes through state and private lands where work can continue. Yet another twist to this load of crud - I hadn't thought about volunteers not being allowed to work.

I do not think my congressman will listen, but I did send an email to Fortenberry to let him know how I felt.

re: "Republicans say the GOP-controlled House intends to pass legislation to reopen portions of the government, including national parks and processing of claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs."

Politicians "intend" to do a lot of things. It will be interesting to see what really happens :-)

Given his history, I think Fortenberry might indeed listen, David. Probably a worthwhile e-mail to have sent.

One of Ted Cruz's most faithful followers -- Utah's Senator Mike Lee -- has just sent an email to Utahns to let us know that he has a wondrous solution to all of this.

Now that his great idea and Teddy Boy's fillabuster with nonsense have "succeeded" he is going to save the day by proposing that they discuss "noncontroversial" budget items that don't include ACA. Maybe he's suddenly waking up to the fact that even among denizens of Utah, his idiocy isn't working.

(EDIT: Oh, heck, it looks like I actually gave Mike Lee too much credit. PBS Newshour just reported that this is a tactic being used by the GOP in a pitiful attempt to salvage their images. So Teddy's puppy is just following the leader to the Mad Hatters Tea Party)

In other news, on the first day citizens of Utah could sign up for ACA, thousands have visited the enrollment website. It's getting very favorable reviews from most of our conservative news outlets.

This reported at 9:03 p.m. EDT

"Congressional Republicans failed to move forward Tuesday with a piecemeal approach to fund popular parts of the federal government to lessen the impact of the first government shutdown in 17 years."

"House and Senate Republicans had offered short-term funding plans to keep open national parks, the Department of Veterans' Affairs, and other government services in the nation's capital....But the GOP efforts failed to win the necessary support in the House to advance to the Senate. The votes fell well short of the two-thirds threshold needed to suspend House rules."

Hmmm. Wonder how the vote split.


252 Yeas (230 R, 22 D)

176 Nays(1R, 175 D)

4 No votes

The binary view of politics that took hold of this country and Congress is getting us nowhere. Sadly, I don't see a way out of it anytime soon.

Thanks Sara

looks like the GOP came through for the Parks. Lee, hope you are keeping this in mind next time you vote.

You bet I'll remember it. I also hope other citizens of Utah will too. T'will be great to get Mike Lee out of there along with Rob Bishop.

Gee Lee, Lee and Bishop didn't vote to keep the Parks closed. Your Dem friends in the House didn't give them the chance. We can see where you priorities are- and the Parks aren't at the top.

Given the polls, you won't be alone, Lee.

Xanterra put a memo on their Yellowstone Jobs website that addresses the shutdown and what it means for their employees. Xanterra isn't sending any employees home early unless the park is still closed on October 6th. The employees are warned not to "recreate" on the trails or bike on the roads, but they can use the employee rec halls(at Old Faithful that means basketball and ping pong).


This is great. For days you all have been blaming the GOP for shutting down the parks. Now we have a vote on just that. Opening the parks and the VA. Nothing else on the table and the Dems vote it down. Do you complain? No. What hypocrits.

You don't give a rodents behind about the Parks, only your progressive agenda.

This is great. For days you all have been blaming the GOP for shutting down the parks. Now we have a vote on just that. Opening the parks and the VA. Nothing else on the table and the Dems vote it down. Do you complain? No. What hypocrits.

You don't give a rodents behind about the Parks, only your progressive agenda.

How is caring about both hypocritical?

(I would add that this isn't, at least for me, a question of a "progressive agenda." To me, this is a matter of caring about the parks and the practice of good government.)

"Why should people not be allowed to visit?" Because it gets the most exposure and news coverage from the event, however the main reason for this dissension in government is the ballooning uncontrollable budget and I haven't seen much if any mention of it.

Lets not forget about the National Seashores....Cape Hatteras, Gateway.

I guess the folks at National Audubon Society , Defenders of Wildlife, the Southern Environmental Law Center and all theother 'Greenies' are smiling.......... EVERYBODY out of NPS Lands!! Let nature have it all with no people recreating and destroying the Park!

If both parties are truly concerned about the parks, or any other federal function, they'd get to work and agree on an actual appropriation bill for every Department and agency - a process which is supposed to be completed and sent to the White House prior to October 1 every year. If Congress had performed that basic task, there would be no need for a continuing resolution.

Those appropriation bills can be sent forward one department at a time for signature. If Obama refuses to sign any of those bills, then he's responsible for the deadlock.

That normal appropriation process - not the continuing resolution process - is the place for debates about which functions to fund or not fund. According to the U. S. Senate website, the purpose of a continuing resolution/continuing appropriations is "to provide budget authority for Federal agencies and programs to continue in operation until the regular appropriations acts are enacted."

Such resolutions are intended to simply maintain the status quo while differences between the House and Senate are resolved, and the key word is "continue." When either party tries to use this process as a way to pick and choose what to continue (or not), a deadlock is guaranteed.

Incidentially, generally lost in all the uproar is the fact that if a continuing resolution is finally passed, that step will fund agency operations at the reduced levels due to the sequester cuts from last FY.

ec, I'm sure even you must realize that this whole circus act playing out now is just one more in a long, shameful sitcom in which GOP members like Lee and Bishop have been bit players seeking star billing.

This is just one more act in an absolutely absurd political theater. One in which they hope to be able to tie things up and embarrass the President they pledged to make a one-term President. Thank goodness there were enough sensible, intelligent voters in the nation to see through their partisan idiocy and keep that from happening. I truly feel sorry for people who have allowed themselves to be sucked into the swamp along with these morons.

I'll remember what they've done. Not only what they've done this time, but many others.

New on the WWII memorial front this morning:


The 'shutdown' moves from ridiculous to farce....

This is a losing battle for the administration.... even the mass media that supports almost without exception the administration can't ignore this story.... the visual of 90 year old veterans being arrested at their public memorial will be everywhere...

This action is shameful....

Additional honor flights are due to arrive tomorrow, I believe. I hope they come.


According to news reports, no sign of vets being arrested or prevented from visiting the memorial, although the policians are putting both park employees and the vets in the middle of a ridiculous situation. Congresspersons are refusing to fund the parks, along with the rest of the government, so legally those areas are closed. Then these same politicians show up to "escort" the vets into the closed area. We shouldn't be surprised by another example of the term "two-faced."

Some of our congresscreeps have so many faces even they have lost track.

According to the news I saw last night, the veterans were eventually allowed to enter. What is the truth here? Does that depend upon who is telling the story? Or could it depend upon who is listening to it?

(EDIT: I just checked. I was correct. NBC Nightly News had footage and a report the the veterans were admitted after a delay. As reporter Harry Smith said about rangers, "They were not about to keep the men who had stormed the beaches of Normandy out of their memorial. Truth seems to an elusive thing these days. . . . )

Bachmann and other lawmakers will be at the stie “today, tomorrow, the next day, however long it takes” to keep the memorial open, she told CNN. ”The last thing we should see in America is a barricade for World War II veterans to be prevented from coming to their memorial,” Bachmann added.

Where are the Democrats? Only the republicans stood up for the WWII veterans?

DOI had the NPS increas security this morning in order to further prevent access. Every NPS personnel that "just followed orders" should be fired when this is over. A just disgraceful display of stupidity by the NPS and DOI.

The result of a disgraceful display of stupidity by our GOP congresscreeps. I believe the LAW requires that unfunded Federal facilities be closed. If that is correct, then the NPS personnel (and our President) are simply following laws established by Congress. The law is, I believe, one slipped in during the last shutdown when Newt locked the doors. It was apparently intended to make the shutdown then as unpopular as this one is.

How did all that turn out for the GOP at the next election?

Washington (CNN) – [/b]Busloads of World War II veterans, many in wheelchairs, broke past a barricade Tuesday morning to cross into the World War II Memorial, as onlookers applauded and a man playing the bagpipes led the way.

Moments earlier, a few Republican members of Congress had removed a section of the black gates that surrounded the site, allowing a line of veterans to roll past security officers, who willingly stood aside.

Its hard to rely on the liberal media to tell the truth, but CNN did it, reluctantly I'm sure.

When asked why Obama would personally order the memorial closed off, King said he couldn't get into the president's head. But "the secretary of the Interior is not going to make such a spiteful decision," he said. "This has to be a White House decision."

It was either Obama or Sally? Who is more evil?

I believe the POTUS has bent and broken the law before? (remember the ACA employer mandate delay, that ain't legal...)

GOP was out numbered by the new clueless Jay Z and Lil Wayne crowd. ;-)

I truly feel sorry for people who have allowed themselves to be sucked into the swamp along with these morons.

And I feel sorry for your (and my) grandchildren that will be paying for the mess Obama has created - that is if the healthcare system lets them live that long.

Or did a few Republican wingnuts break Newt's closure law?

Where are the Democrats? Only the republicans stood up for the WWII veterans?

Tom Harkin was there. He's featured in the very article you cite.

But where were the Democrats? Do they not care about war veterans? Shouldn't they have shown the mean republicans how much more caring the Democrats pretend to be?

OK, to keep this from spiraling out of control, we're closing this one down.