The questions at work started trickling in a few days ago, and by last night it was a flood: “Will you close if the government shuts down on Tuesday?” Normally I’m not one for following politics closely, but when it has such a direct impact on my next two weeks I pay attention.
Cedar Pass Lodge is managed by a concessionaire company and not the NPS, but the buildings are all owned by the government and on park property and thus, yes, will be closed. As of 8:30 this morning Badlands National Park wasn’t barricaded off yet but we were told by the rangers that it would be. Our GM at the Lodge was going to open the store and restaurant in the morning for a bit whether the shutdown happened or not – we have guests staying in the cabins and folks in the campground and it would be wrong to not give them a shot at one last meal, especially when the next nearest restaurant is over 30 miles away and there is no grilling, campfires, or open flames of any sort allowed within the park.
While the restaurant and gift shop will have to be closed today unless congress comes to an agreement soon, people staying in the cabins and campground have 48 hours from the time of shutdown to leave the park. We’ll need to give refunds to everyone who had a reservation with us, the gift shop merchandise needs to be inventoried and put into storage, and it saddens me to think how much perishable food in the restaurant is going to go to waste with this early closure.
Well, not all of the park is going to be closed. There’s a 5-6 mile stretch of state road that goes through the park that is a major thoroughfare, it cannot be shut down. But the rangers will be barricading off all the trail heads and overlooks along it.
How does all of this effect me? Not as much as it could have. Our season at the Badlands was already near it’s end thankfully, visitors have been tapering off since school started and the weather started turning colder. The Lodge’s normal last day is Oct. 15th so it’s only two weeks early. My last contracted day was the 15th, so I would have been leaving at the end of the season but not hanging around to do all the closing up afterward. If congress can’t get their heads out of their you-know-whats, I’ll still probably be hanging around until the 15th and getting paid (again, I’m not working for the government directly so I’ll still get paid) to help prepare everything for the winter. Us concession employees will still be allowed in the park to do what we need to do even after the 48 hours is up for the public, but it’s going to be very empty and strange.
I feel bad for people working at other parks though, like Big Bend, who’s season is just starting. And I also feel bad for vacationers who used their precious paid days off to come spend time in the parks and now have nowhere to go. I was telling people all day yesterday that Badlands, Rushmore, and Wind and Jewel caves will all be closed, but that they can go to Custer State Park and the Crazy Horse monument since neither of those are federal. I’m happy to hear that the military and essential personnel are still going to be getting paid and that social security and medicare checks for October will still be going out, but that still leaves a lot of people who aren’t getting paid. I guess right now I’m pretty lucky that I wasn’t working directly for the Park Service.
Today is usually a day off, but I’ll be stopping in at the Lodge at lunchtime to eat and see what’s going on. If help is needed closing things down, I’ll probably stay. I might put up another post before the normally scheduled one on Friday if events warrant it. We live in interesting times.