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National Parks, Monuments May Remain Open But Unstaffed if Government Shuts Down

You might want to reconsider your plans if you intend to visit a national park this weekend. While the park might be open, there probably won't be any rangers on site, which could pose a serious risk to safety.

The Trump administration is reportedly planning to keep many national parks and monuments open if the government shuts down on Friday, the Washington Post reported. The move is meant to avoid the public outrage sparked by the closure of parks and memorials during the 2013 shutdown.

According to the Post, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is working on a plan with White House and National Park Service officials to keep parks from the District to Montana open—but without rangers or other staff on site.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney reportedly proposed to keep the sites open if Congress does not pass a new spending bill and President Donald Trump signs it into law by midnight Friday. They would reopen once the government's funding resumes.

"We fully expect the government to remain open. However, in the event of a shutdown, National Parks and other public lands will remain as accessible as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures," Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift told the Post. "Visitors who come to our nation's capital will find war memorials and open-air parks open to the public."

The department "will still allow limited access wherever possible" to national parks, refuges and other public lands, Swift added, including on roads that have been cleared of snow. "Wilderness type restrooms . . . will remain open," too.

But "services that require staffing and maintenance such as campgrounds, full service restrooms, and concessions will not be operating," she said.

Experts, however, warned that inadequately-staffed parks could pose risks to tourists and to the sites as well.

"Even if there were a law enforcement presence, the safety and integrity of park resources would be at risk, not to mention the safety of visitors and the quality of their experience, if park personnel weren't there to ensure proper management and oversight," John Garder, senior director of budget and appropriations for the National Parks Conservation Association, told the Post.

Four years ago, the federal government's 16-day shutdown shuttered the nation's parks, monuments and facilities.

Arizona, Colorado, Utah, South Dakota and New York decided to keep its treasured national sites open during the shutdown but the states had to come up with a plan and the funding to keep them open.

Government shutdowns are very costly, as the Arizona Republic noted. For instance, Arizona lost out on $27 million of revenue during the 2013 shutdown, with the Grand Canyon alone amounting for $17 million of it.