The only thing worse about the shutdown of the federal government on Oct. 1 for all branches of Olympic National Park would have been if it had come during peak tourist season.
As it is, ONP officials are scrambling to notify all visitors that they have 48 hours to leave the park and tell many others their reservations are cancelled.
The shutdown includes all lodges, hotels and campgrounds within the park, its visitor centers and the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge near Sequim, which has cancelled an open house scheduled for Oct. 3.
A search at the ONP website reveals the following statement: “Because of the federal government shutdown, all national parks are closed and National Park Service webpages are not operating. For more information, go to www.doi.gov.”
According to a release from the DOI, “… only limited functions will continue, such as those necessary to respond to emergencies and to protect human life or property.”
In practical terms, “What it means is we’re in the process of furloughing most of our 103 employees,” said ONP spokesman Barb Maynes. “A small staff of 31 won’t be furloughed — security, law enforcement, water and wastewater maintainence personnel. As we are able, with reducing the number of our staffing, we are closing roads — most of the park’s access roads are closed — Hurricane Ridge, Elwha, Hoh and Sol Duc. There will be no park facilities open and visitors and ranger stations will close.”
Maynes said based on average visits per day in October, the forced shutdown will affect probably 5,000 visitors a day in the entirety of the park. Logistics have required ONP employees to call people with upcoming reservations. “I spoke with a woman whose wedding is scheduled in the park this weekend,” Maynes said. “Families’ plans will need to be changed if things remain as they are.”
Maynes said a small skeleton office crew, including Supt. Sarah Creachbaum, will remain on duty to handle questions from furloughed employees and the public.
“It’s an impact to our employees, and all the places our employees shop, and a huge impact to visitors and community businesses that serve the visitors who come here,” Maynes said.
She added that for 2012, visitors contributed $115 million to the area’s economy.
State parks remain open and available as normal, according to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. See www.parks.wa.gov.