Visitors can expect the entrance gates at Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks and the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge to be locked should the federal government shut down Friday.
“We still believe that there is the opportunity for Congress to avoid a government shutdown, but are working to prepare for all possible scenarios,” said Kendra Barkoff, spokeswoman for the federal Department of the Interior.
“Visitors and potential visitors ... should be advised that, in the event of a government shutdown, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management will close and secure park, refuge and visitor facilities on public lands,” she said.
In addition, visitors using overnight concession accommodations and campgrounds will be notified and given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements. That means the National Park Inn at Mount Rainier would be shut down as well.
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A limited number of employees needed to protect life and property on public lands, such as law enforcement, emergency services and fire-fighting personnel, will be exempt from any furlough, Barkoff said.
Such essential work would include plowing of the road to Paradise, said Dave Uberuaga, superintendent at Mount Rainier.
“If we didn’t, and the snow piled up, it could take weeks to reopen,” he said.
At the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, all visitor services would be shut down, said Jean Takekawa, refuge manager.
“We’re fully open through Friday evening, but if there were a shutdown, the refuge would be closed on Saturday,” she said.
The last times the federal government shut down were in the winter of 1995-96. The first lasted five days in mid-November 1995; the second lasted 21 days from Dec. 15, 1995, to Jan. 6, 1996.
Uberuaga said the road to Paradise remained opened then, as did the National Park Inn because the second shutdown fell during Christmas break and many people had reservations.
The National Parks Conservation Association estimates closing National Park Service sites at that time cost about $14.2 million a day in lost tourism revenue.
“We’re especially concerned about the impact on local communities and businesses who depend on the tourism surrounding national park sites,” said Lindsay Bartsh, associate director of media relations for the National Parks Conservation Association.