Capitol Alert

Yosemite is open, but staffing will be light

This undated image provided by the National Park Service shows Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park in California in winter. The park is less crowded in winter and offers solitude, scenery and activities like hiking, snowshoeing, skiing and ice skating.
This undated image provided by the National Park Service shows Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park in California in winter. The park is less crowded in winter and offers solitude, scenery and activities like hiking, snowshoeing, skiing and ice skating. AP

Yosemite National Park will be open if a federal government shutdown occurs tonight, although some services like ranger walks and museums will discontinue.

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, announced on Friday that the park would be open regardless of the looming shutdown. It was an important promise for the small communities around the park who rely on it for tourism.

The National Parks Service said this week that it planned to keep the parks accessible to the public even though the vast majority of its employees will be placed on mandatory furloughs if the shutdown begins.

In Yosemite’s case, that means the park gate will be open although no one will staff it. That means the park will have free admission if a shutdown occurs, a $30-per-vehicle savings.

McClintock said the park is finalizing an agreement to keep its hotels and concessions open. They’re operated by Aramark Management Services. On Friday, it assured guests that its services would be open if the government shuts down.

Later in the day, park spokesman Scott Gediman said those services could be interrupted if the government and Ararmark do not nail down a plan. There’s a chance that hotel guests could be sent home Saturday night.

Gediman said the medical clinic in the park would remain open, and federal employees who are considered essential for ensuring the health and safety of visitors also would come to work.

“It’s basically a minimal staffing,” he said. “We as a National Parks Service will still provide emergency medical services, such as search and rescue,” he said.

Other national parks generally are expected to carry out similar plans.

The plan to keep the parks open is different from how the Obama administration handled a 16-day government shutdown in October 2013. In that period, national parks were closed to the public.

“The vendors, visitors and gateway communities to our national parks suffered enormously during the government shutdown in 2013 because of deliberate actions by the Obama administration,” McClintock said.

A national parks advocacy group criticized the Trump administration’s plan to keep the parks partially open, calling it unsafe for visitors.

“Gates would be open and people could enter, but there would be virtually no staff on hand to protect them or the parks’ resources. It’s an irresponsible way to run parks,” said Theresa Pierno, president of the National Parks Conservation Association.

The world won't end if Washington can't find a way to pass a funding bill before this weekend. That's the truth about a government "shutdown": the government doesn't shut down.

Adam Ashton: 916-321-1063, @Adam_Ashton. Sign up for state worker news alerts at sacbee.com/newsletters.

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