As I write this, we are on day 2473 of the federal shutdown (okay, we’re on day 24…I think). If you are in the United States, you fall into one of two groups. On one hand, there are those who are directly affected by the shutdown. They could be furloughed federal workers or federal workers who are currently working without pay and without any word of when paychecks might arrive. They could also be those who depend on the federal government for assistance, who may not be able to feed their families because of the shutdown.*
So, in light of all this, I have an ironic post. One aspect of this mess that may not be as dire, but still breaks my heart. The National Parks. I love the National Parks and we try to visit as many as we can.
And here comes the irony…I’m sharing pictures of our recent visit to one of our favorite parks and then asking you not to follow in our steps for the time being.
When we were in Arizona last month, we drove over to the Saguaro National Parks (it is actually one park, but it has 2 sites in different parts of Tucson). The shut down was only a week old at that point and we weren’t even sure that the gates would be open. They were because the shutdown didn’t close the parks, it just doesn’t staff them.
The park was more crowded than I had ever seen. After all, there was no one to charge admission. These parks can be done as drive-throughs, which is what we ended up doing. Normally, we will stop and do a few short hikes with the kids, but parking was an impossibility.
Because there were no rangers, some seemed to believe that there were no rules. People would speed up the roads, park where they shouldn’t, and blaze their own trails. After all, who would stop them?
This was only a little over 2 weeks ago when the shutdown was still young, and I could already see the damage. I fear for what we’ll find when we return in March–provided that the shutdown is over by then. Right now, I’m not optimistic about that.
So, I’m asking this. Please consider waiting until after the shutdown ends, whenever that is, to visit the National Parks. These are living places and they need their caretakers. Even if you are a conscientious visitor, as we were, just the added traffic can compound the damage.
The parks will be there once our nation becomes functional again. The only question is if the scars will fade.
* If you are looking for a way to help those affected by the federal shutdown, please consider donating (food or money) to your local food bank or pantry. As assistance is suspended to some of the most vulnerable individuals and families, they will be relying on food banks and pantries to meet their basic needs. You can locate a local organization at www.foodpantries.org or www.feedingamerica.org.