The budgeting mess and political wrangling in Congress over Obamacare has ruined the vacation plans of tens of thousands of RVers who had planned to camp in a national park this week.
The National Parks shut down is also hitting hard the bordering communities whose economic livelihood is closely tied to a steady stream of national park visitors.
At midnight, all activities at the parks, except for necessary emergency services, were immediately suspended and the parks closed indefinitely. In addition camping on all Bureau of Land Management land has been halted and the National Parks Service had furloughed 21,000 employees of its nearly 24,675-strong workforce.
Essential services such as law enforcement will continue, but all public recreational use has been shut down.
Visitors currently camping or staying in a national park have been ordered to leave by Friday and all roads leading to the parks are being closed to public access. New visitors showing up will be turned away.
On Monday, the Department of Interior, which runs the parks service, released details on the closures, which effects all 401 national park areas including such popular destinations as Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Yosemite, Glacier, Acadia, the Great Smoky Mountains and the Rocky Mountain National Park.
RVers, who tend to be older without young children, find the parks particularly attractive to visit at this time of year because, with school in session across the country, the summer crowds are diminished and its easier to move about the parks.
This isn’t the first time there have been shutdowns because of Congressional funding disputes. In the Clinton administration, the parks shut down for 28 days in late 1995 According to the Congressional Research Service, the the shutdowns cost the country $1.4 billion.
And there was massive public outrage.
“Once the shutdowns began, the reaction from people who wanted access to the parks was absolutely incredible,” Bruce Babbitt, who was U.S. Interior Secretary at the time, said in an interview Monday with environmental reporter Paul Rogers of the San Jose Mercury News.
Here are some excerpts from Rogers's story:
“The first call I got was from the governor of Wyoming, who was having a fit. He was saying ‘You have to open Yellowstone. This is an outrage. Do something!'”
The then-governor of Arizona, Fife Symington, sent National Guard troops to the Grand Canyon in an attempt to keep the park open, rather than risk losing tourism. Eventually, Arizona officials paid the National Park Service through state funds and donations to keep famous sites along the South Rim open.
“It's especially hard to turn away families who have planned vacations, and people have nonrefundable plane tickets,” said B.J. Griffin, who was Yosemite National Park superintendent in 1995. “For some people, this is their once-in-a-lifetime visit. Back in 1995, the anger and the anxiety was properly placed. Visitors knew it was Congress and not our rangers.”
How long this shutdown will last is unsure. Hopefully, this one will be shorter than the one n 1995.
Here is the official statement from the Department of the Interior:
“Effective immediately upon a lapse in appropriations, the National Park Service will take all necessary steps to close and secure national park facilities and grounds in order to suspend all activities except for those that are essential to respond to emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property. Day use visitors will be instructed to leave the park immediately as part of Phase 1 closures. Visitors utilizing overnight concession accommodations and campgrounds will be notified to make alternate arrangements and depart the park as part of Phase 2. Wherever possible, park roads will be closed and access will be denied. National and regional offices and support centers will be closed and secured, except where they are needed to support excepted personnel. These steps will be enacted as quickly as possible while still ensuring visitor and employee safety as well as the integrity of park resources.”
So that's the latest.
Again, let's hope this doesn't last long and those who were planing national park vacations can find suitable alternative places to camp.
I don't want to get political here on Roadtreking. The country is already polarized beyond anything I have ever seen in my 30 plus years as a journalist. Ad we have Roadtreking.com readers who hold very different views on the issues surrounding the shutdown.
So if you comment below, please don't bash anyone or engage in political wrangling. Let's stick to what we all agree on: It's a shame our national parks are closed.
And if you have suggestions for those out there looking for places to stay, by all means share it here.