The ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government has affected National Parks and federal lands across the country in different ways. Some are wide open to the public. Others are closed completely. And on the Western Slope is a well-known spot that is somewhere in-between.
Heading west from Grand Junction, you can drive into Colorado National Monument without a problem. Past a closed payment station. Past sheer red cliffs and a few overlooks flaunting the snow-dusted valley below.
But after about three miles, there’s a gate – and a sign. “Road Closed,” it says.
Jerri Flaig and her excited dog, Rosie, are walking nearby.
“I think it reflects a very dysfunctional government at this point,” she said, getting Rosie to sit.
Flaig is here from California and would love to keep driving. But much of Rim Rock Drive, which winds through the monument for 23 miles, has been closed since the day after Christmas because of snow. And the money needed to get it plowed is locked up in Washington.
Flaig insists she’s trying not to dwell on the shutdown.
“But it’s certainly really impacted a lot of people who were looking forward to seeing some of these sites and national parks on a holiday,” she said. “And it’s a sad business.”
It’s especially sad for out-of-towners, like Virgie Wilks.
“We definitely don’t see this where we’re from,” she said, with a laugh.
Wilks and her husband only wish they could see more of the monument. They’re on their way back to Texas after vacationing in Breckenridge. They had no idea the road was closed until they drove up to the gate.
“We had the chance to come, and now we can’t,” she said. “So it’s not very good feeling.” But she doesn’t blame anyone – or any party – in particular. Neither does Eric Zhang, who’s visiting from Fort Collins with his family.
Instead, he holds both Republicans and Democrats accountable for not finding common ground.
“If you ask me, I would lock them all up in Capitol Hill, until they work something out. Alright?” he said, with a laugh.
The road will stay closed until Congress passes a funding bill – or until the sun melts away all that snow and ice.
Similar road closures are in effect at Rocky Mountain National Park, though the roads remain open to pedestrians and bicycles. Mesa Verde National Park is not reporting any road closures, and the park remains open, with all visitor services shut down. The same is true at Great Sand Dunes. At Dinosaur National Monument the Quarry Exhibit Hall and Visitor Center are closed. Roads and trails are accessible unless they become unsafe, and emergency and rescue services will be limited.