by Emily Brennan
Good news for travelers to national parks this winter: Although the federal government shutdown, from Oct. 1 to 16, forced the National Park Service to close 401 parks and lose $450,000 a day in revenue, it did little to slow preparations for winter activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
That the shutdown occurred during the shoulder season eased the pain for national parks like Yellowstone, which was already winding down its services from the peak summer season when its employees were furloughed. Yellowstone, which lost $191,000 in entrance fees and licenses during the closure, reopened in time to start grooming roads for activities like guided snowmobile and snow coach tours, which begin in December.
Even Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Parks, which both suffered damage from natural disasters this summer, have bounced back from the shutdown.
In August, Yosemite lost 77,000 acres of forest to the Rim Fire, which started in the neighboring Stanislaus National Forest and burned about 400 square miles. The damage, though, was limited to the remote northwestern corner of the park near Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, leaving main tourist areas like Yosemite Falls and Glacier Point untouched and a majority of the park’s infrastructure intact.
Scott Gediman, a spokesman for Yosemite, said that while the government shutdown caused the park to lose thousands of dollars in revenue, it did little to slow the park’s rehabilitation because the scorched area is mostly designated wilderness.
That means, he said, that “as the National Park Service, we don’t go in and replant trees.”
“Fire is basically a natural process,” he added. “It actually had some good ecological aspects.”
Rocky Mountain National Park, which was inundated by floods and landslides that began on Sept. 11, is also fortunate that damage was confined mostly to its designated wilderness area.
Kyle Patterson, a spokesman for Rocky Mountain, said that the shutdown caused minor delays in park rangers’ assessment of the damage, and that some trails and footbridges, particularly around Endovalley, still needed to be repaired.
The park, however, is on schedule for its winter season of skiing and snowshoeing. And because Route 36, which suffered severe damage from flooding, opened on Nov. 4, travelers will have easier access to the park.
Updates on trails in Rocky Mountain are available from the information line at 970-586-1206 or at nps.gov/romo.