National parks are ready to welcome back visitors after a brief government shutdown.
During a partial government shutdown, maintenance employees, tour guides and most other personnel are furloughed. Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park was one of many parks with limited services and that meant no cave tours over the weekend. Even in winter that’s a big deal. John Garder at the National Parks Conservation Association, said visitors spent more than $30,000 on an average January day at Mammoth Cave in 2016.
“But no matter how you look at it this situation has been very damaging to parks, to their visitors, threatening to park resources and threatening to those local economies that depend on congress doing its job and providing some consistent funding for our national parks,” he said.
Garder said budget cuts mean parks have lost about 10 percent of their staff over the last five years while there’s been a nearly 20 percent increase in visitation. He said it’s difficult to ensure the protection of the parks resources when they’re operating on a skeleton crew. A spokesperson for Mammoth Cave said most employees were put on furlough but park rangers remained in the park to protect resources and facilities.
According to the National Parks Service, in 2016 national parks in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia saw more than seven million visitors and supported 4,700 jobs.