The last time the government shut down, in 2013, the Obama administration was attacked for closing national parks, monuments, and museums. This time, the Republican-controlled government wants to avoid such censure—but the outcome is largely the same.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has decided to leave the gates open to many parks and monuments in an effort to appease the public, arguing that these tourist destinations “should not be weaponized.” According to the National Parks Conservation Association, about two-thirds of the 417 national parks will remain open.
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But while there will not be any physical blocks to entry as was the case in 2013, the open parks will have limited services. The Park Service has been furloughed, meaning that visitor centers, gift shops, and restrooms will be closed. Without this staff present, some have argued that keeping the parks open can put the safety of visitors at risk and potentially threaten the parks themselves.
Meanwhile, similar to what took place during the last government shutdown, some states have decided to foot the bill to keep national monuments open and running at full capacity. In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey (R-Ariz.) has put aside state funds (estimated at $1000,000 a week) to keep the Grand Canyon open, paying for services including trash removal, snow plowing, and public restrooms.
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) has also announced that the state would pay $65,000 a day to keep Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty open. Cuomo explained that “it’s all about bringing people here. The concept of closing the doors to immigrants is repugnant to the concept of America.” Cuomo said that the state would continue paying until the government shutdown ends, noting that it’s actually a good investment, as “the revenue we gain from the tourists is multiples of what it will cost to actually pay to open the Statue of Liberty.”
National sites that will remain open with limited services include: Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Alcatraz Island, and the National Mall and Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo will remain open through Monday, using funds from last year. Those hoping to visit the Liberty Bell or Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, or Muir Woods in California, however, will be disappointed.