Some national parks stay open during shutdown, but for others, confusion reigns

Catharine Hamm and Mary Forgione
Los Angeles Times

As parts of the government stop and money dries up, some of the 418 units of the National Park Service have found a way to remain open.

Grand Canyon National Park will be open because of provisions made in February, the Arizona Republic reported.

State revenue will be used to fund the park service.

“The Grand Canyon will not close on our watch. Period,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement on the governor’s website. “If Washington, D.C., won’t function, Arizona will. By working together with the National Park Service and with dollars from our Parks and Tourism departments, we have identified state resources and will make sure the Grand Canyon stays open.”

About 6.3 million people visited the park in 2017, making it ninth in popularity among all units. Among “beauty spots” – that is, the traditional national parks, such as Yosemite – the Grand Canyon ranked second, after Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, which had more than 11 million visitors last year.

Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi also will stay open, WLBT-TV in Jackson reported. The nonprofit Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign will provide money. The group “has committed to fund basic operations to keep the Vicksburg National Military Park open in the event of a government shutdown, through the help of generous donors and partners,” a Dec. 20 statement on its website said.

People pass in and out of the Castle Clinton National Monument in New York's Battery Park Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. Castle Clinton and The Statue of Liberty remained open despite a partial government shutdown. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

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The park received about 475,000 visitors in 2017.

Other parks will be open, but visitors in some cases won’t find rangers or restrooms.

The National Park Service Contingency Plan this year explained it this way: “Parks must notify visitors that the NPS will cease providing visitor services, including restrooms, trash collection, facilities and roads maintenance (including plowing), campground reservation and check-in/check-out services, back-country and other permits and public information.”

Visitors during the January shutdown were confused about what they could expect, and some incidents of inappropriate behavior were reported, the Hill said, including the “illegal hunting of a pregnant elk in Utah’s Zion National Park and a snowmobiler who got a little too close to Yellowstone National Park’s iconic Old Faithful geyser.”

There also may be confusion about the status of lodgings. The Oasis at Death Valley (formerly Furnace Creek Resort) will remain open to holiday visitors, spokesman Trey Matheu said in an email. The resort is a privately held area within Death Valley National Park. Although the park and its employees may be affected by the partial shutdown, lodging, restaurants and other activities will be unaffected.

Parent company Xanterra Travel Collection said in a statement Friday that it received word that entrances and roads into Death Valley would remain open, though services such as pubic restrooms and visitor centers would be shut.