PROMO 64J Logo - Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site Sign - Jeanne Sorensen

Nearly all national park sites to close during government shutdown

Entrance sign at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. © / Jeanne Sorensen
Jacob Fischler

(Colorado Newsline) Almost all National Park Service sites will be inaccessible during a partial federal government shutdown likely to start this weekend, the U.S. Interior Department said Friday.

The agency will bar access to most of the nation’s 425 parks, recreation areas, national historic sites and other units, according to a fact sheet from the Interior Department, which oversees the NPS.

“At NPS sites across the country, gates will be locked, visitor centers will be closed, and thousands of park rangers will be furloughed,” the fact sheet reads. “Accordingly, the public will be encouraged not to visit sites during the period of lapse in appropriations out of consideration for protection of natural and cultural resources, as well as visitor safety.”

Units that “by their nature, are physically accessible to the public,” such as the National Mall in Washington, D.C., will remain open. Likewise, areas of some parks that are physically accessible, including park roads, trails, campsites and open-air memorials, will remain accessible, the department said.

But areas that remain open will operate with “significantly reduced” services, the department said. Colorado is home to four national parks: Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Great Sand Dune National Park and Preserve, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Interior had not previously revealed its plans for dealing with a funding lapse, though advocates expected reduced access.

Some state governments have pledged to use state funds to keep parks in their states open.

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, said she’d use state lottery revenue to maintain access to Grand Canyon National Park.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, said Thursday “the state has identified short-term funding options” to keep its five national parks open. Both states made similar moves during the 2013 shutdown, the last time parks closed for a lapse in funding.

The fact sheet said National Park Service Director Charles F. Sams III would have to approve any such agreement. Interior and the NPS have not said if Sams has approved such plans.

Cox said the department had not authorized his plan.

Agreements between states and the Park Service could take a few days from the onset of a shutdown.

A senior Interior official said Thursday the NPS and Interior were “prepared to engage in those discussions with states.” The official spoke with reporters by phone on the condition he not be named.

The deadline for Congress to fund government programs is Saturday at midnight. The U.S. Senate is set to vote near the deadline on a continuing resolution to keep the government funded at existing levels.

But the U.S. House — where several far-right members oppose a short-term funding bill — has not shown progress toward a deal that would avoid a partial shutdown.

Procedures to close the parks would begin Sunday and likely continue into Monday, the official said.

The plan to close access to parks is similar to the approach the Obama administration took in 2013 but differs from the Trump administration’s in 2018 and 2019.

Under President Donald Trump, the Park Service used visitor fees to fund operations, but also deeply cut services. The approach was “reckless,” according to parks advocates and incurred lasting damage to park sites.

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