While national park entrances remain open during the partial government shutdown, be reminded that these sites are not fully staffed. That means less rangers and staff to respond to emergencies. It also means critical service outages in areas such as trash collection and sanitation. These things can mean greater risks to you and your unit if you choose to visit a national park during this period, no matter how prepared you are. As well, the lack of regular maintenance, patrols, and custodial and sewage services continues to damage the parks in numerous ways, some of which may take years to recover from.
If you can avoid further stressing these invaluable public resources during this shutdown, we’d encourage you to do so. Be aware that other options exist. Numerous parks and forests, notably those managed by States in our region, are still open and running under current, standard operating conditions. We encourage you to explore them, as well as other non-federal sites, now or at any time of the year. Our region also has a wealth of privately owned recreational opportunities, some that may even offer discounts or special events for Scouters.
If you must still go to one of these national parks for any reason, please be mindful of the present circumstances and prepare accordingly. Only essential personnel are on hand, meaning that you could experience longer than normal wait times for emergencies. Reevaluate your safety and emergency plan accordingly. You’ll also want to be extra mindful of your outdoor ethics training, especially LNT principles. Pack everything out that you packed in. EVERYTHING. Remember. there’re no trash or toilet services, so what you leave will only add to what’s already there and lengthen recovery time. Avoid closed areas or campgrounds. Some have been shuttered specifically due to safety issues, particularly when it comes to sanitation.
Volunteers who are helping to supplement some services should be extra aware in their service and take any and all proper safety precautions. Unattended trash can attract and condition wildlife to its availability, creating dangers for both you and them. Sewage overflows can spread a variety of diseases and parasites. Snow removal, road hazards, and weather or natural events can also add to this list of hazards. Exercise caution and know when to exit a situation to preserve your health and safety.
Scouting treasures US national parks. Many of us recall them as the setting for our greatest adventures and memories of fun with friends. While we don’t relish the thought of staying away from them for any length of time, the safety of our Scouters and our respect for all that these natural gems have provided to multiple generations comes before all else. Be informed. Be prepared.