National Parks Still Open: Private Companies And Volunteers Get Things Done During Shutdown

Eric Scheiner | January 8, 2019
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From Yellowstone Park to the National Mall, private companies and volunteers are doing the jobs furloughed government workers aren’t as the current government shutdown continues.

While the liberal media mostly focuses on the problems caused by the shutdown, a few different types of stories are slipping through the cracks. Even National Public Radio notes that businesses are keeping the trails open at Yellowstone National Park:

Two weeks into the government shutdown, National Parks are starting to close. The public has been getting free access, since there are no employees to collect entrance fees of up to $35 per car. But neither are employees there to collect trash and clean bathrooms. 

So local businesses stepped in to keep things running.

So, during the shutdown, private businesses that operate inside the park are picking up the tab — about $7,500 dollars a day to groom Yellowstone's 300-plus miles of snow-covered roads, and to keep one paved road open to cars. Xanterra Parks and Resorts, which runs the only hotels operating inside the park in winter, is paying most of that — paying park service employees to perform the same grooming duties they do under normal circumstances.

Xanterra asked the 13 guide services that operate in the park to chip in to help pay, and all of them did. It adds up to about 300 bucks a day for each of the guide services.

And will the Park Service reimburse them for paying park employees during the shutdown? 'There is no reimbursement from the government after the shutdown ends,' says Mike Keller, Xanterra's general manager in Yellowstone, 'The funds that we pay operate for those days. We won't be reimbursed the dollars that we've committed for the previous 14 days.'

Nor is Xanterra getting reimbursed for the half-dozen of its own employees who are cleaning park bathrooms during the shutdown.

WJLA in Washington, DC reports that private businesses and volunteering furloughed workers are working to clean things up at the National Mall.

“In the district, trash started piling up on the National Mall shortly after this shutdown started. However now DC private companies and volunteers are working to clean up the mess,” according to WJLA.

There are reports of dog owners cleaning beaches in California from KQUED:

'This is basically citizens standing up and saying, 'If you guys can't do it yourselves because of the shutdown, we will definitely help clean up the parks,'  said Sally Stephens, who chairs the dog owner's group.

The Reno Gazette Journal reports:

With few federal employees left to protect some of the nation’s most prized public land, private citizens are using their free time to keep Yosemite National Park clean as the government shutdown drags on.

On Sunday, the Interior Department announced the decision to use visitor fees previously collected at national parks to help deal with maintenance and safety issues as opposed to the funds heading towards their previous destinations.

"Thanks to the strong relationships that many national parks have built with partners across the country, a number of states, private concession companies, and park nonprofit groups have stepped up to provide over two million dollars’ worth of donations and in-kind services to help over forty parks continue to provide key services for visitors," P. Daniel Smith, Deputy Director of The National Parks Service said.