As of Tuesday, Jan. 29, the local national parks have resumed full operations. The most noticeable change was in the collection of fees; the Park Service has not had the ability to collect entrance fees since the shutdown began on December 22. Now all areas that are typically open this time of year are open and accessible, and the regular winter staff of employees are back at their posts.
“As we returned to work this week, it is clear that the shutdown had major impacts to employee morale, not to mention the financial hardships imposed on many of our staff that had to go without a paycheck for 35 days and counting,” said Christy Brigham, acting superintendent for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. “We will only understand the long-lasting impacts to summer park operations and important park projects from lost revenue and lost work time as the rest of the year unfolds.”
Azalea Campground in Kings Canyon National Park continues to be open without reservations as is typical for the winter months. Potwisha Campground in Sequoia National Park also is open and has resumed taking reservations as of Wednesday, Jan. 30.
Recreation.gov is operational and available to those looking to book campground reservations for future months.
“We are extremely grateful to the teams that have been working to keep us safe and operational during this time,” Brigham added.
Working on a deal
In Washington, D.C., a committee of congressional negotiators met Wednesday, Jan. 30. Talks began to reach a border security deal that President Trump might support. Leaders from both sides of the aisle sounded optimistic that a compromise could be reached. Democrats and Republicans said they were not that far apart on a plan to fund the Department of Homeland Security with more resources to boost personnel, technology and other efforts to secure the southwestern border.
Any talk of broader immigration reforms that Democrats would favor in exchange for the president’s demands for $5.7 billion for a southern border wall were set aside to focus on a narrow spending bill.
President Trump has maintained that the situation along the border with Mexico is a threat to national security and therefore a state of emergency. If no congressional compromise is reached by February 15, then he has threatened to use his presidential powers to declare a state of emergency and build the wall without congressional.
“I can’t even think about how our summer operations [Sequoia-Kings] will be affected if we have another shutdown anytime within the next six months,” Brigham added.
Returning to normal
For the next two weeks at least, the national parks will remain open. Local businesses are reporting little revenue on weekdays, but more customers on weekends, which is typical for this time of year.
Christian Lewis, who with his wife, Shannon, owns and operates the Buckeye Tree Lodge and Sequoia Village Inn at the park entrance, said they have seen a “slow but steady improvement” in reservations since the shutdown has ended.
“It’s such a slow time for us in January, the shutdown did not really affect us all that much up here at Wuksachi,” reported Dan Cornforth, general manager of Delaware North operations in Sequoia National Park. “We’re seeing business pick up on weekends, and the fact that the shutdown has ended has got to help us.”
With an incoming cold, snowy period forecast for the next several days, chain-up areas will be moving down the Generals Highway.
“As an operator, I’d like to see the snowstorms on weekdays and nice sunny days on the weekends,” Cornforth said. “At this point, we’ll take whatever we can get.”
Statement by Congressman Kevin McCarthy
Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-District 23/includes Three Rivers), House Minority Leader, released the following statement on the deal President Trump made to reopen the government:
“Congressional Democrats have said ‘no’ to commonsense border security that would protect the American people. That is why President Trump took decisive action today to put people above politics by agreeing to reopen portions of the federal government — including paying
TSA screeners, air traffic controllers, and Federal border and law enforcement officers— and secure commitments to have Democrats start negotiating in good faith.
“Now it is time for the Speaker and the Senate Democratic Leader — both who have pledged repeatedly they support border security — to come to the table and negotiate with the President and congressional Republicans to do what the American people expect — secure our border.
I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to find meaningful solutions to border security, including a barrier, that the President will support.”