Rocky Mountain National Park restores accessibility, resumes basic visitor services
Officials with Rocky Mountain National Park reversed this week a decision to cease snowplowing operations and park maintenance during the ongoing partial government shutdown.
Kyle Patterson, spokesperson for the park who remains on furlough due to the shutdown, released a statement Monday evening announcing that a limited number of park staff would begin plowing snow in portions of the park to allow visitors entry.
Areas that have been closed due to the inability to plow and maintain roads will once again be accessible including at the Grand Lake entrance, which is now open and plowed from the park’s entrance to the Colorado River Trailhead.
Snowplowing also took place along U.S. Highway 36 on the east side of the park, past the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and U.S. Highway 34 past the Fall River entrance. U.S. Highways 36 and 34 were reopened to Deer Ridge Junction, along with Trail Ridge Road beyond Deer Ridge Junction to Many Parks Curve on the east side of the park.
A limited number of custodians also began cleaning toilet facilities and trash receptacles.
Some basic visitor services, including entrance stations and two out of five loops at the Moraine Park Campground, will also reopen later this week. Entrance stations will be open to provide safety and basic information to visitors, but entrance fees will not be collected.
The basic services are being funded with revenue generated by recreation fees, according to park officials. National Park Service officials have determined that, by using Federal Land and Recreation Enhancement funds to bring back limited park maintenance staff to plow roads, clean restrooms, and remove trash, the park can restore accessibility to the park for visitors.
Outdoor areas of the park remain accessible while most facilities, including Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on the east side and Kawuneeche Visitor Center on the west side, remain closed.
While basic visitor services have been restored, other services will be limited or unavailable during the lapse in appropriations, including visitor centers, ranger talks and programs.
About 90 percent of Rocky Mountain National Park staff are still unpaid — whether furloughed or excepted, which means they are working and not getting paid, such as law enforcement rangers and dispatchers, according to Patterson. The roughly 10 percent of staff that are being brought back will be paid through the fee funds. However, the limited staff that are being brought back will not be working full-time.
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