October 1, 2013
Today Yosemite National Park celebrates it’s 123rd birthday. Unfortunately, park-goers won’t be able to celebrate on the premises. Today the government has shut down due to Congress’ inability to pass a new budget. Part of the governmental shut down deals with National Parks and monuments. Yosemite National Park is one of the 401 national parks that will be closed.
Yosemite became a national park in 1890 signed by President Benjamin Harrison. Yosemite encompasses 1,500 square miles of California and helps preserve the beautiful Giant Sequoia trees. Naturalist John Muir helped bring the area to the government’s attention. He expressed concern over logging of the Giant Sequoias as well as overgrazing in the area. Muir was determined to provide protection to the area and invited influential guests to camp with him to experience the beauty of Yosemite. Partnered with influential lobbyists, Muir’s dream became reality with the Yosemite Act of 1890. Since 1890, tourists and naturalists alike have been able to experience Yosemite in its natural state with preservation efforts continuing to this day.
National Park Service
The National Park Service oversees the upkeep and tourism to Yosemite and national parks across the country. The park service provides rangers, fire departments, welcome centers, restrooms, camping centers, road maintenance, trail maintenance, and tours throughout the park system just to name a few functions. The National Park Service is funded through the federal discretionary spending accounts. The budget for National Parks services must be approved by congress each year.
New Budget Fails
This year Congress was unable to come to an agreement on the new federal budget. They had until midnight last night to come to an agreement or non-essential government functions would cease until an agreement is reached. Congress did not come to an agreement; therefore, non-essential programs have come to a halt. This includes many National Park services. Yosemite, and the other 400 national parks, will be closed in a two-phase process. Starting today, visitors will not be able to enter the park. Anyone with a one-day pass or attempting to enter for the day will be turned away. Those already within the park or at the campgrounds will have 48 hours to leave the park. Exceptions to this rule include those with certain hiking permits that have already been purchased. For example, a person already hiking freely in the park with a permit that lasts 7 days will have until the permit expires to leave the park. Everyone else, including tent and RV campers, must leave the park within 48 hours.
Many families plan months, if not years, in advance for these once-in-a-lifetime vacations to national parks across the country. Families that have planned for these experiences will get to the gates only to be turned away. Nonrefundable flights can make it even harder for families traveling from afar. Local businesses that rely on travel to the area may also take a large hit. Fortunately, once a budget agreement is reached, Yosemite should open swiftly allowing visitors once again to enjoy her beauty.
It is hard to say when parks will open again. The government has not shut down in this manner since 1995 under the Clinton Administration. That shut down lasted an astonishing 28 days during the 1995-1996 shutdown. Previous government shutdowns have lasted just two days to multiple weeks. Ultimately, once an agreement is reached we can expect to see parks open again same day. Until then, travel to the national park system should not be made unless you are willing to get to the gates only to be turned away. State parks are not affected.
Does the shutdown affect any of your travel plans?