Tension has been mounting in recent days as Americans watch their political leaders bicker over the national budget. Among the many issues affected by a government shutdown would be the closure of national parks and other facilities.
Tom Kiernan, President of the National Parks Conservation Association explained the situation, stating:
“We are deeply concerned about the potential devastating impacts that closure of the federal government could have on local communities, federal workers, and our 394 national parks across the country. Not only will a government shutdown jeopardize family vacations and school field trips to places like the Statue of Liberty and Yosemite, but it would also have a significant impact on local communities who depend on the economic return of national parks tourism.
“The National Park Service has 372 events planned over the next week that would be cancelled, including commemorations to kick-off the 150th anniversary of the Civil War at Fort Sumter. National park educational programs would be ceased, turning school groups away. Park hotels and campgrounds would be emptied for vacation-goers. And the loss of more than 800,000 daily visitors from across the world who typically visit national parks in April—many of whom have planned the trip of a lifetime in the next few days—would cost local communities an economic loss of more than $30 million each day the national parks are closed.”
The NPCA president went on to explain how the shutdown would harm the park system, which is already behind on maintenance:
“The budget impasse that is causing the threat of park closures also threatens our national parks, which are already underfunded with an annual operating shortfall of more than $600 million and a growing deferred maintenance backlog. ”
Kiernan went on to condemn the lack of teamwork in Washington, stating:
“During a time of economic hardship, Congress and the Administration should be working together to keep our national parks open and funded to protect our American heritage, support local economies, and serve tourists from throughout the world.”
As of Friday, April 8, the National Park Service website had no information about potential closings. National Park Week is scheduled for April 16-24, 2011.