Federal shutdown takes toll on local employees

Leia Larsen
Rocky Mountain National Park District Ranger Mark McCutcheon advises visitors on how to get to Estes Park on Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 2. The park and Trail Ridge Road are closed due to the federal government shutdown.
Byron Hetzler/ | Sky-Hi News

Nearly all of the National Park Service staff is furloughed until the U.S. Congress approves a federal budget and begins functioning again. One of the few employees still working, for a 72-hour period at least, is Rocky Mountain National Park’s public information officer, Kyle Patterson.

“It’s just surreal to look out at this beautiful day and not have any visitors,” she said. “It has been pretty crazy the last couple of days as we started the shutdown mode, and we’ve answered a lot of questions.”

All roads, trails and facilities in the Park will remain closed for the duration of the federal shutdown. This has lead to immense public confusion about how a national park, owned by the public, can lock out its visitors.

But Patterson said the closure is frustrating for federal workers, too.

“We consider ourselves public servants. Most of us are in this profession because we’re so passionate about national parks and serving the public,” she said. “When we have to switch gears and not allow visitors into these areas, it’s a difficult thing to deal with on a professional and personal level.”

While a boon to the local economy, the National Park Service isn’t the only federal employer in Grand County. Over 62 percent of the county is public land managed by federal agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Forest Service.

According to the Granby Workforce Center, that accounts for around 250 local jobs.

The Sky-Hi News attempted to contact several local furloughed federal employees; all declined to speak about their situations.

“We’re doing what we’re being told to do, but this certainly has an impact on our local communities,” Patterson said. “Hopefully this will be of short duration, but at this point, we have no way of knowing.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

The Sky-Hi News strives to deliver powerful stories that spark emotion and focus on the place we live.

Over the past year, contributions from readers like you helped to fund some of our most important reporting, including coverage of the East Troublesome Fire.

If you value local journalism, consider making a contribution to our newsroom in support of the work we do.