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National Monuments Stay Open With Help From States, Other Donors

Dec. 27, 2018, 8:06 PM

State and local governments are stepping in to keep national monuments open across the country during the government shutdown so tourists’ holiday plans aren’t sidelined.

Topping the list of sites that will remain open are the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Grand Canyon, and Utah ski slopes, governors in New York, Arizona, and Utah said.

The partial government shutdown began Dec. 22 when Republicans, Democrats, and the White House couldn’t agree on how much money to allocate to President Donald Trump’s border wall. The shutdown affects about 800,000 workers, including employees of the Treasury, Homeland Security and Interior departments, out of a total federal workforce of roughly 2.1 million employees.

About 420,000 of those 800,000 employees are working, while about 380,000 are furloughed. Those working will get paid after the shutdown ends, while those who are furloughed get paid if Congress agrees to pay them and President Donald Trump signs legislation.

“The National Park Service has signed over forty agreements since the lapse in appropriations with a number of concessioners, partner organizations, and states to provide various visitor services at a number of national parks. The extent of services and duration varies by agreement,” the agency said in a statement provided to Bloomberg Law Dec. 27.

For example, the California Department of Parks and Recreation has made an in-kind donation to provide for the cleaning of restrooms and trash removal at Redwoods National and State Parks, the agency said. In Philadelphia, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell will reopen Dec. 28 through Dec. 30 with the help of a donation from Visit Philadelphia, the region’s tourism marketing agency.

Plans Put in Place Earlier

Many of the sites that remain open are operating under contingency plans put in place during earlier government shutdowns at the start of 2018 and after a 16-day shutdown in October 2013.

For New York state, that means a price tag of $65,000 per day to fully fund the personnel and operations to keep the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island open.

“The Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island have a major impact on the New York State economy,” a statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said. “According to an annual report by the National Park Service, 4.5 million people visited Liberty Island in 2016, generating $263.2 million in visitor spending per year and supporting 3,400 jobs, with an economic output of $364 million. Shutting down the park would deny access to an average of 12,000 daily visitors and impact more than 900 jobs,” it said.

Arizona and Utah will also be picking up the tab to keep the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, and other sites open. “Regardless of what happens in Washington, the Grand Canyon will not close on our watch,” Gov. Doug Ducey (R) said in a statement. “Arizona knows how to work together. We have a plan in place and we’re ready to go. If you have plans to visit the Grand Canyon over the weekend, keep ‘em. The Grand Canyon will remain open.”

Funding for the Grand Canyon is provided by the Arizona Office of Tourism and Arizona State Parks & Trails, in coordination with the National Park Service and local municipalities and businesses. In Utah, all state agencies that use federal funds have contingency plans in place to continue services in the event of a temporary shutdown. The state’s Division of Finance and the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget are also assessing what kind of “limited cash flow support” might be available in the event of a prolonged shutdown, Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R) said in a statement.

D.C. Area Sites Uncertain

The nation’s capital could feel the brunt of parks and monuments closing to the public during the shutdown, as the National Parks Service operates 126 properties across the District of Columbia.

Park roads, lookouts, trails, green spaces, and open-air memorials, including the National Mall, will generally remain accessible to visitors, the NPS said. However, emergency and rescue services will be limited, and no NPS-provided visitor facilities or services will be available, including restrooms, visitor centers, information kiosks, and ranger talks and education programs, the parks service said.

But local foundations seem to be filling in for D.C. favorites such as the National Christmas Tree. When the Christmas tree went dark on Dec. 21 as a result of vandalism, the National Park Foundation and local philanthropic organizations stepped in to turn the lights back on.

Other local favorites remained open, but that may be short-lived. All of the Smithsonian Institution’s museums and the National Zoo were set to operate with normal hours through Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, it said Dec. 22. Smithsonian representatives weren’t immediately available Dec. 27 to comment on what will happen after the New Year.

To contact the reporters on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at; Louis C. LaBrecque in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Kushin at