It happened. At of 9:01 p.m. PST, the U.S. government shut down for the first time in 17 years. For the National Park Service, that means closing each of its 401 units across the country, a move that furloughs roughly 20,000 employees, leaving a force of 3,000 for resource and public safety.
For one of the nation's most popular parks, it's an especially sobering time. "The last few years at Yosemite National Park, from responding to a major public health crisis to rockfalls to the largest fire in park history, have been challenging," wrote Superintendent Don Neubacher in a memo obtained by KCET. "We also understand this potential shutdown and furlough will create hardships for you."
Many park employees and volunteers live within the park boundaries. They won't be ousted, but they will be limited in what they can do in the neighborhood. Even one park employee asked his friends on Facebook if they wanted to host him. "We can't even hike in our own park, so I need something to do!"
The same goes for park visitors, who won't be allowed in if they want to take in the sights. Only travelers between the two sides of the park can gain access, a sigh of relief for those heading to or from the Eastern Sierra (even though snow usually closes Tioga Road in October). "Visitors passing through the Park to reach another destination (i.e. Mammoth Lakes, Tahoe, etc.) will be able to do so on a designated 'thruway' such as Hwy. 120 or 41," read a letter from Terry Selk of the Yosemite/Mariposa County Tourism Bureau. "Stopping or recreating will be prohibited."
Neubacher's memo from Monday morning can be read in full below (formatting added by KCET for clarity of reading):
Government Shutdown Update - Monday morning, September 30, 2013
We apologize for the potential for a government shutdown tonight. The last few years at Yosemite National Park, from responding to a major public health crisis to rockfalls to the largest fire in park history, have been challenging. We also understand this potential shutdown and furlough will create hardships for you.
The Executive Leadership Team continues to have tremendous respect and admiration for the talent and professionalism found here in our staff. As always, we will do what we can to minimize the effect of the government shutdown if it occurs. We want to express our appreciation for your hard work, dedication and public service.
Thank you for your patience through this process. We hope the shutdown (if it occurs) will be short lived. We will constantly update you as additional information becomes available. The Senate will be meeting at 2pm EDT today to debate the latest proposal from the House. We will keep you up to date as we learn more throughout the day.
If there is a lapse in appropriations on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 and Congress has not passed an appropriation or continuing resolution and we have direction to proceed with the shutdown, the following applies:
Employees should report to work at their normal time and will be given up to four hours to conduct shutdown activities. Within the four hour timeframe, an employee should complete their timesheet, work with their supervisor to secure property and files, receive a furlough letter and acknowledge receipt, and conduct other activities as directed. Supervisors may make other arrangements with employees in order to accomplish these shutdown activities through other means, such as teleworking. Employees should report to work on Tuesday unless they have received different direction from their supervisors. Some employees will be given additional time, on an exception-basis only, for shutdown activities that will extend beyond the 4 hours. Your supervisor will inform you if you are one of these individuals that is needed to help with these efforts.
If there is no lapse in appropriations and the government is operating, the following applies:
Employees should report to work on their normal schedule unless the employee is on previously scheduled and approved leave or is approved for telework or has made other arrangements with their supervisor. Employees should work with their supervisors on any specific circumstances not addressed in this general guidance.
Overall Summary Information about Yosemite's Closure
Services and programs that will remain operational include: Law enforcement and emergency and disaster assistance including the medical clinic, firefighting and monitoring, critical resource protection and surveillance; Critical maintenance and road
activities; Limited management of ongoing projects that are funded from non-lapsing appropriations.
- All through roads will remain open: Highway 120, Highway 41, and Highway 140. No stopping along the roads or parking to recreate within the park will be allowed.
- Services and programs that will be ceased:
- All entrances will be closed and secured to park visitors.
- Visitor centers and other facilities will be closed.
- Education programs and special events will be canceled.
- Permits for special events will be rescinded.
- Guests staying in hotels and campgrounds will be notified of the closure and given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park.
- The majority of the facilities and services operating under concessions contract, regardless of physical location, will cease operations in the event of a shutdown; however, some critical services will remain open for residents.
- Facilities and areas open to residents:
- Public areas and trails in immediate proximity to roads (ex: Valley Loop Trail), will be open for residents only.
- All other front-country trails, climbing routes, and backcountry trails will be closed to all users (visitors and residents).
- We are working with DNC to provide a preliminary list of facilities and services that will be open to residents during the shutdown.
Some Additional Information
- Time and attendance: See attached information for details on how to report your time during the shutdown. Please read and review today, and begin your timesheet today if possible.
- Devices: Once you begin your furlough (after your up-to-four hours of orderly shutdown time) devices are to be turned off. The only exception is those in on-call status. NO work is to be conducted via phone, iPad, web connection, jump drive, etc. NONE.
- Devices are to be turned off until furlough ends.
- Out of office messages: All furloughed employees should use the following out of office messages on their official telephones and email accounts.
- Phones: "This is (YOUR NAME) of the National Park Service. Because of the federal government shutdown I have been furloughed. I cannot check phone messages until the government re-opens."
- Email: "Because of the federal government shutdown I have been furloughed. I cannot check email messages until the government re-opens."
- Notification: when it is time to return to work you will be notified via personal phone (home or cell) or email. You may also monitor DOI website and OPM website (using only personal equipment!). Those who choose not to provide personal contact information remain responsible for returning to work at the designated time. We will update the Employee Hotline as well.
- Volunteers: All volunteers in park housing will be treated as equivalent to seasonals in park housing, they may remain in housing until the date their season would have ended. They will not receive per diem reimbursements for days not worked. Volunteers living outside the park will not work until appropriations are approved. Volunteers living in campgrounds can remain in the campgrounds as it is their assigned housing.
- Media: The Public Affairs Office will handle all media calls. We will refer all national media inquiries to the Washington Communications Office (202-206-6843, [ mailto:email@example.com ]firstname.lastname@example.org).
- The National Park Service shutdown plan is now posted online at: http://www.doi.gov/shutdown/index.cfm.
- NPS guidance documents are available on InsideNPS at: http://inside.nps.gov/waso/custommenu.cfm?lv=2&prg=27&id=11314