Strain Of The Shutdown Starts To Show At Rocky Mountain National Park

January 3, 2019
Photo: 2018 Govt Shutdown 2 | RMNP Road Closed Sign - AP
Cross-country skier Kayla Downey, back, of Estes Park, Colo., works her way down Trail Ridge Road after an overnight snow in Rocky Mountain National Park Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018, in Estes Park, Colo.

Between the ongoing federal shutdown — now in its 13th day — and a spate of recent snow, all of the roads into Rocky Mountain National Park’s roads are now impassable to vehicles. Park entrances have been closed thanks to unplowed roads.

Visitors can still bike, walk or snowshoe into Rocky, said Estee Rivera Murdock of the Rocky Mountain Conservancy.

She said it’s “unfortunate because our national parks are here for everybody, so ideally they should be very accessible to everybody, but you lose that accessibility, of course, when there’s no basic services like, you know, plowing or sidewalk scraping or those sorts of things.”

There is one visitor center open, the one operated by the Conservancy just outside the park’s eastern entrance. Normally, the nonprofit’s center would be closed this time of year, but Rivera Murdock said they made the decision to keep it open until the shutdown ends.

The partial government shutdown began on Dec. 22. President Donald Trump’s demand for money for a border wall with Mexico has been the sticking point in passing funding bills for several government departments. Trump said Wednesday that the shutdown will last “as long as it takes.”

The president’s closed door meeting with congressional leaders produced no results, so the stalemate will continue. They’ll all try again Friday.

In the meantime, the funding impasse continues to produce visible evidence in RMNP. Visitors that do march into the park will find closed bathrooms and no trash collection. The breakdown in park services means human waste will likely be a concern if the situation continues much longer. During the last shutdown, Rivera Murdock recalled that the “Beaver Meadows Visitor Center area was all yellow snow, which is pretty disgusting.”

Under the National Park Service's shutdown plan, authorities have to close any area where garbage or other problems become threats to health and safety or to wildlife, spokesman Jeremy Barnum said in an email Monday to The Associated Press.

"At the superintendent's discretion, parks may close grounds/areas with sensitive natural, cultural, historic, or archaeological resources vulnerable to destruction, looting, or other damage that cannot be adequately protected by the excepted law enforcement staff that remain on duty," Barnum said.

Park visitors are advised to use extreme caution should they enter Rocky, since there is no one to provide guidance or assistance and emergency services are limited.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.