Shutdown closes National Parks, including Sleeping Bear Dunes

BY JENNIFER WEINGART

The federal government shut down as of midnight last night. This shutdown will have an of impact across the country but perhaps one of the biggest effects will be felt by the National Parks Service.

CMU Public Radio’s Jennifer Weingart spoke yesterday with Deputy Superintendent Tom Ulrich from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to get his thoughts on what impact the shutdown will have on this Michigan Landmark.

“In the event of a government shutdown, Sleeping Bear would be closed, because we are part of the national parks service and are a federal installation and so if there is not a federal budget, we do not have any money to operate,” Ulrich said.

“What is the overall impact the government shutdown would have on the park? Do you think it would impact events in the future even after the government re-opens?” Weingart said.

“Well I guess that’s kind of dependent on how long it might go on. What happens is that nearly all of my staff goes into a furlough status, so they don’t work. We do maintain a few people just to maintain public health and safety, so that’s a couple of law enforcement rangers and a couple of folks to handle, you know, any sort of power outages or trees across roads or things like that, but other than those folks, no one is working. So people who serve the public; my interpretive rangers, my maintenance staff, you know the public does not get their needed services and facilities. And then that alos means that my resource management folks are not on the job. So people who control invasive plants, and manage wildlife populations, preserve historic resources, they are not able to do their jobs either. So, of course, if it goes on for a lengthy period of time, you can have setbacks in those areas,” Ulrich said.

“Is this likely to have an impact on the tourism industry in the area?” Weingart said.

“Well, it certainly could. People right now are probably still planning to travel here, but if the shutdown goes into place and people realize that the park will be closed they may cancel or cut short their vacations. The park does bring in over 100-million dollars in economic revenue to the area if you average that out over the course of a full year it comes to 360 thousand dollars a day, so it certainly could be effected. Undoubtedly there would be people who would not cancel their vacation, would still come to the area even if the park itself were closed, so it’s not as if that would be a loss of that exact amount but certainly it can only go down, it wouldn’t go up. In October we average about 2,300 visitors per day to the park, so that’s a lot of folks who would be disappointed. I think one of the key things is, you know, the park staff. Everyone wants to work. We’re very proud of the work we do to preserve this place and make it a welcoming place for people to come and enjoy and appreciate and we’re disappointed, of course, if we’re not able to do that. Not to mention the potential for economic impact on the employees if, indeed, they do not get paid for the time that we are shutdown,” Ulrich said.

That was Tom Ulrich of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore speaking with CMU Public Radio’s Jennifer Weingart about the impact of the Federal shutdown on National Parks.

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