National Park Service using funds for future projects to keep parks clean, open during shutdown

The National Park Service announced Sunday that it would be using funds earmarked for future projects to keep its most popular sites open and operational during the ongoing partial government shutdown.

National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith said the “extraordinary step” was necessary to protect parks and provide “limited” services to visitors.

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“The NPS currently has funds derived from entrance, camping, parking and other fees collected from park visitors that would typically be used for future projects at parks,” Smith explained in a statement posted to the National Park Services website. “After consultation with the Office of the Solicitor at the Department of the Interior, it has been determined that these funds can and should be used to provide immediate assistance and services to highly visited parks during the lapse in appropriations.”

National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith said the “extraordinary step” was necessary to clean up garbage — such as the trash seen here at Ocean Beach in San Francisco — that has been piling up at “numerous” sites.

National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith said the “extraordinary step” was necessary to clean up garbage — such as the trash seen here at Ocean Beach in San Francisco — that has been piling up at “numerous” sites. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

“We are taking this extraordinary step to ensure that parks are protected, and that visitors can continue to access parks with limited basic services,” added Smith.

A New York resident is seen reading a notification announcing the temporary closure of a visitor's center at a Wildlife Refuge in Queens, N.Y., on Jan. 3.

A New York resident is seen reading a notification announcing the temporary closure of a visitor's center at a Wildlife Refuge in Queens, N.Y., on Jan. 3. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Smith did not specify which of the “highly visited parks” would be getting the funding, but stated that the “smaller” parks would remain closed. He added that the funds would be used to clean up garbage that has been piling up at “numerous” sites, clean bathrooms, bring in law enforcement, and open up accessibility to park areas as scheduled.

Smith also thanked the Park Service employees who are currently working at our national parks and memorials, as well as the partners, vendors and donors who have contributed time and money to help keep dozens of parks open during the shutdown.

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News of the Park Service’s decision comes following reports of campgrounds closing at Yosemite due to trash buildup and restrooms overflowing with human waste, as well as reports of poaching and theft at lesser-patrolled parks, per the Associated Press.

Trash is seen littering a roadside at Yosemite National Park, Calif.

Trash is seen littering a roadside at Yosemite National Park, Calif. (Dakota Snider via AP)

The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), a nonpartisan advocacy group, has since said Sunday’s NPS announcement is misguided.

"Instead of working to reopen the federal government, the [Trump] administration is robbing money collected from entrance fees to operate our national parks during this shutdown," said Theresa Pierno, the president and CEO of the NPCA, in a statement posted online.

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“It’s incredibly concerning that the Acting Interior Secretary is putting political pressure on Superintendents to keep parks open at the expense of parks’ long-term needs and protection,” she added. "For those parks that don't collect fees, they will now be in the position of competing for the same inadequate pot of money to protect their resources and visitors. Draining accounts dry is not the answer."