National Parks Poised to Close During Government Shutdown

Visitors will be forced to leave

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    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As a federal government shutdown increasingly likely, don’t plan any trips to national parks tomorrow—they’ll be closed.

Unless a government funding bill passes both chambers of Congress before midnight tonight, sites operated by the National Parks Service from Acadia National Park in Maine to Yosemite in California will lock their gates and turn away visitors on Tuesday morning. Those already inside the parks will be asked to leave immediately, while overnight campers and guests at hotels in national parks will have 48 hours to depart. Parks will be completely empty of tourists by Friday and will remain closed indefinitely.

"Staffing will be held to the very minimum to perform essential functions," the service’s contingency plan said. Eighty-six percent of NPS employees would be furloughed—more than 21,000 people. A skeleton crew will maintain most offices, but fire-fighting crews engaged with active fires and those for monitoring areas currently under a fire watch will remain on duty.

The loss of these visitors will cost millions for the tourism industry. The nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association estimates that economic loss around $30 million each day. According to the Arizona Daily Star, visitors spent approximately $2.7 million a day in Arizona’s national parks, which includes the Grand Canyon.

During the government shutdown in the mid-1990s, 368 National Park Service sites were closed, and millions of visitors were turned away. It cost park-dependent communities approximately $14 million daily.

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