The National Park Service (NPS) will begin using admission fees to fund essential services while the government shutdown drags on. The monies collected at park entrances and campgrounds will be diverted from future projects to help keep key parks open and address the out-of-control issues of trash, sanitation and vandalism.
“As the lapse in appropriations continues, it has become clear that highly visited parks with limited staff have urgent needs that cannot be addressed solely through the generosity of our partners,” an NPS press release states.
“Over the last few days the Acting Secretary of the Department of the Interior David Bernhardt and the National Park Service have explored a number of options to address the maintenance and sanitation issues that have arisen at a number of highly visited parks while keeping our commitment to the American public to ensure they have access to their lands.
“The NPS currently has funds derived from entrance, camping, parking and other fees collected from park visitors that would typically be used for future projects at parks. After consultation with the Office of the Solicitor at the Department of the Interior, it has been determined that these funds can and should be used to provide immediate assistance and services to highly visited parks during the lapse in appropriations.
“We are taking this extraordinary step to ensure that parks are protected, and that visitors can continue to access parks with limited basic services,” Bernhardt said.
The funds will be used to clean up the mountains of trash that have accumulated at popular parks, pump overflowing septic systems, clean and maintain restrooms, bring additional law enforcement rangers into parks to patrol accessible areas, and to “restore accessibility to areas that would typically be accessible this time of year,” the press release states.
Many smaller sites will remain closed. In the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, where 88 percent of federally-owned property burned in the Woolsey Fire, the shutdown is reportedly hindering efforts to reopen damaged open space areas. The visitor center at King Gillette Ranch remains closed, but the park is open because the majority of the King Gillette acreage is owned by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
Paramount Ranch and Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyons reopened from the fire closure before the shutdown, and Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa was not involved in the fire, but all other National Park properties in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area, including popular Solstice Canyon Park, Zuma and Trancas canyons, and Circle X Ranch and Sandstone Peak, remain off limits, and the NPS parks that are technically accessible may not have restrooms, water or other facilities.
The press release directs visitors to go to www.nps.gov and select “Find a Park” for “additional information on access to parks and sites in a particular area,” but the website states: “during the federal government shutdown, this website will not be updated and may not reflect current conditions.”