A lot of the nation’s major tourist sites are operated by the federal government. A looming shutdown in Washington could have far-reaching effects on travelers across the country, although they may not be felt immediately.
“If history holds up, (travelers are) going to find themselves at a gate that’s closed,” said Wayne Freimund, a professor of recreation resource management at Utah State University-Moab, previously told USA TODAY of national parks, one of several kinds of attractions that could be impacted.
A government shutdown would cause a temporary shuttering of NPS sites across the nation, such as Independence Hall and the Statue of Liberty: gates will be locked, visitor centers and restrooms will be closed and thousands of park rangers will be furloughed.
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Some NPS sites, by nature, are difficult to restrict public access, like the National Mall in Washington, D.C. If a shutdown occurs, people are encouraged not to visit these sites out of consideration for the protection of these resources and visitor safety since staffing will be drastically reduced.
During the last government shutdown from December 2018 to January 2019, many NPS sites that were accessible to the public were overwhelmed by continued visitors, including damage to natural resources and overflowing restroom facilities.
Here’s what you need to know about some of the most popular tourist attractions and what a government shutdown could mean for them.
Will the Statue of Liberty in New York be open during a government shutdown?
No, unless there’s a deal between the state of New York and the Interior Department.
The National Park Service operates the monument, but during the previous shutdown in 2018, it remained open after New York stepped in to provide funding.
Will the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall in Philadelphia be open during a government shutdown?
In the 2018-2019 shutdown, both the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall were closed to the public, but the Independence Park Visitors Center remained open. Because sites in Independence Park are run by different entities – some federal, some private – the outcomes for different sites will depend on the management.
Will Mount Rushmore be open during a government shutdown?
It’s currently unknown if Mount Rushmore will stay open during a shutdown, according to a spokesperson for the site. The state could step in to fund the Memorials, but that’s undetermined.
In the most recent shutdown, visitors could still go to Mount Rushmore, but there were no services available on the grounds.
Will Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., be open during a government shutdown?
During previous shutdowns, the Smithsonian museums were able to use surplus previous-year funding to remain open at first, but once that money ran out, they were forced to close. So, it depends on how long the shutdown lasts.
Will the National Mall in Washington, D.C., be open during a government shutdown?
Technically, people would still be able to access the National Mall’s green spaces and open-air memorials. However, staffing for restrooms and sanitation maintenance and trash collection are not guaranteed.
During the shutdown in 2018, facilities like restrooms and interiors like those at the Washington Monument were closed to visitors.
Utah’s national parks will remain open?
The state government in Utah is determined to keep the major national parks there open. Under an emergency funding plan, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion National Parks will remain open thanks to a $5 million grant from the state.
“Our first priority is watching out for visitors who have traveled from all over the world to have once-in-a-lifetime experiences. We are also mindful of communities that rely on the visitor economy, and of course, protecting the natural environment of these beautiful places,” Vicki Varela, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism said in a statement.
Contributing: Nathan Diller, USA TODAY