Everyone rejoice: now that the shutdown is finally over, government employees can get back to work and the rest of us can go out and explore any National Park that we feel like. No sneaking around with the risk of getting fined, you can now travel as you wish.
While some National Parks found ways to open back up during the shutdown, thanks to a handful of states that opted to pay the federal government to keep their parks functioning, today the 400 some National Parks will open back up as the furlough for the 20,000 park employees ends.Beyond National Parks, monuments and memorials managed by the National Park Service will also open back up.
But you know what all this means? After over two weeks of shutdown, you may expect lines and plenty of tourists in the places you have been wanting to visit. But hey, at least they’re open.
Not allowed to go where you want to on account of the government shutdown? That doesn’t pose a problem for some. Because hey, if you’ve traveled far to see a certain landmark, you’re going to do everything in your power to see it. Or at least that is the thought pattern of the people who have been sneaking into Grand Canyon National Park recently. May we remind you that such behavior is in fact illegal.
Nearly two dozen people have been issued citations for entering the park; you see the government and the National Parks can get shut down, but someone will still be employed to get you in trouble when you make an attempt at entering.Some of the people that snuck in were even attempting rim-to-rim hikes, obviously dangerous if there aren’t any rangers to go to if you find yourself in a questionable situation.
The Grand Canyon isn’t the only place people have been trespassing. In Zion National Park in Utah, 16 hikers jumped the fence in protest of the shutdown. And then there are the people that unwillingly break the rules, like the runner who says he was fined $100 for working out on a trail in Valley Forge National Historic Park. He had parked his car in a parking lot where there was no barrier or sign, but was fined anyway.
As for Grand Canyon National Park? Law enforcement officers are patrolling the area on the lookout for more trespassers. Consider yourself warned.
Manassas Battlefield Park has been struggling with traffic for a long time. The site of the First and Second Battles of Manassas, also known as the battles of Bull Run, it’s rich in Civil War history. The main reason two battles were fought there was that the Warrenton Turnpike, the main road from Virginia to Washington D.C., cut right through it.
That turnpike is now Lee Highway (Route 29) and is busier than ever. The roads are clogged with traffic through much of the day, and historic preservationists have fought any expansion of the two-lane highway because it would encroach on the park. They’ve also fought off a giant strip mall and a Disney theme park.
The traffic problem, however, is only getting worse, especially at its intersection with Sudley Road (Route 234). Traffic gets seriously backed up there, making it difficult for visitors to get around the park and passersby to continue to their destination.
Now Edwin C. Bearss, a Civil War historian and tour guide, has written an op-ed in the Washington Post with a controversial solution — expand the highways and build the proposed Bi-County Parkway, which would skirt the park. He says expanding the roads would be a small price to pay for easier access through the park, and would reduce the noise pollution caused by hundreds of idling cars waiting for the light at the intersection to change.
Other supporters of the park oppose any expansion of the roads through and around the battlefield. In such a busy region, however, history may end up taking a back seat to construction.
While U.S. national parks see millions of annual visitors, only 1 in 5 are non-white, and Hispanics (the fastest-growing demographic in America) account for only 1 in 10 visitors. The New York Times just reported about programs hoping to increase visitor diversity by engaging minority audiences with targeted blogger content and highlighting American Latino and African American contributions to park history.
Non-profit organizations are working with the Parks Service and adventure outfitters to market the fitness benefits of the parks, create new attractions, and recruit more minorities to work in the Parks Service. Blogger Carol Cain was selected for one of the American Latino Expeditions and wrote on her blog about making the parks part of her (Latina) heritage, but also warned about the sense of “isolation” she felt as one of the few people of color in the parks.
The National Parks will be free to all on September 28 for National Public Lands Day, and again in November for Veterans Day weekend.
Colorado has their most destructive wildfire on record this season, while a massive California blaze is currently threatening Yosemite National Park. Several of Montana‘s most scenic highways were closed this week due to fire conditions, rerouting many travelers and affecting local businesses. Other recent blazes have plagued Idaho, including the popular Sun Valley resort, and Utah. Travelers hoping to visit one of the many excellent national and state parks out west this summer can keep track of current wildfire conditions and closures with a Google Map.
Google’s Crisis Response project provides critical information to the public during a disaster. The wildfires map is regularly updated with info from the US Geological Survey and InciWeb, as well as local resources and shelter information. If you are traveling to an affected area, be sure to check the map as well check for park alerts.