Government Shutdown Creates Dangerous Situation at National Parks

Jan 5, 2019

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As the US government shutdown lingers on, the impacts are being felt nationwide. At airports, the TSA is facing its own problems. For those wanting to visit national parks, the shutdown poses some real risks. In an unusual move, the administration chose to leave the national parks open, but with severely reduced staff or having no staff at all.

National parks aren’t exactly the safest place on the planet to start with. The very nature of the landscapes that attract millions of visitors each year can be dangerous. According to the National Park Service, an average of six people die each week at national parks, although that number includes incidents like car crashes and medical emergencies such as heart attacks.

With the parks remaining open with little to no staff on site, that level of danger has increased. Since the government shut down, there have been three reported deaths at national parks. On Dec. 21, a 14-year-old girl fell some 700 feet at Horseshoe Bend Overlook in Arizona. In California’s Yosemite, a man succumbed to head trauma following a fall in the park. And, in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, a woman died after being struck by a falling tree.

Yosemite Valley, a glacial valley in Yosemite National Park, California, September 1962. (Photo by Harvey Meston/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park, California. (Photo by Harvey Meston/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

While the National Park Service has closed off some of the more high-risk areas, the parks themselves remain open. This is a departure from previous protocol, which saw national parks closed during shutdowns. Without proper staffing levels at the parks, visitors have free reign in the parks to disregard park rules and guidelines, with no one there to step in and take corrective actions.

With no staff and extended times for emergency responders to reach remote locations, it’s important that visitors take extra precautions while visiting the parks during the current shutdown. Understand that should something happen, emergency responses will be delayed in reaching you because the staff simply isn’t in place to provide help in a timely manner. With no deal in the foreseeable future on the reopening of the US federal government, these dangerous conditions will persist at national parks across the US.

H/T: The Washington Post

Featured Photo via Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

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