WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Park Service says it is taking the extraordinary step of dipping into entrance fees to pay for staffing at its highly visited parks in the wake of the partial government shutdown.
P. Daniel Smith, deputy director of the service, said in a statement Sunday that the money would be used to bring in staff to maintain restrooms, clean up trash and patrol the parks. He acknowledged that the Trump administration’s decision to keep the parks open during the weekslong budget impasse was no longer workable and so more extreme measures were warranted.
“We are taking this extraordinary step to ensure that parks are protected, and that visitors can continue to access parks with limited basic services,” Smith said.
Since mid-December, parks have been relying on outside help for security and upkeep. Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt acknowledged the “burdens born by local communities” during the shutdown and called citizen efforts to keep Utah’s national parks operating “amazing.”
Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana warned Bernhardt on Saturday of “significant risk to property and public health” without funding. Utah Congressmen Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart and John Curtis also asked Bernhardt to restart regular operations.
In response to Bernhardt’s announcement, Bishop released a statement reading:
“I am immensely grateful to the administration for the decision to restore services at our national parks in the midst of this shutdown. Oftentimes, grandstanding and theater can distract us from the important governmental task of providing safety and security. This decision will enhance safety and add protections to all those who choose to recreate in Utah’s parks.”
In a prepared statement, Stewart said, “I am grateful for the quick response to our letter and the extraordinary steps the department is taking to ensure our Utah parks are protected and open for visitors.”
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