Visitors seeking help navigating Redwood National and State Parks are currently out of luck if they head to the Crescent City Information Center and the Hiouchi Visitors Center.
“We’re limited in the amount of resources we can offer only because we operate in state and federal buildings,” said Joanna DiTommaso, development director for the Redwood Parks Conservancy, the nonprofit organization that supports Redwood National and State Parks, the Smith River National Recreation Area and other state parks on the North Coast. “For example, we operate the Crescent City Information Center here at park headquarters, but the building is federal so we had to close that location.”
In a press release issued Dec. 22, Redwood National Park officials announced that visitor services, including restrooms, trash collections, road maintenance and public information would be suspended as during the shutdown of the federal government due to the lapse of appropriations.
National Park Service social media and websites aren’t being monitored or updated during the shutdown. Programs including ranger-led interpretive walks, educational programs and scientific research have also been cancelled, according to the press release.
The shutdown is also impacting operations at the Six Rivers National Forest.
“We are on furlough due to a lapse in government funding,” an outgoing voicemail greeting at the Gasquet Ranger District states. “We don’t have access to voicemail during the current lapse in funding. We look forward to returning your message once funding is restored.”
With the shutdown in its second week, the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park visitor center is the only place within the Redwood National and State Parks partnership for people to seek information, DiTommaso said Wednesday.
The conservancy added an extra staff member to handle an increase in visitors to Prairie Creek, DiTommaso said. A California State Parks volunteer is also helping out, she said.
Though she couldn’t say whether the higher influx of people was due to the shutdown or the holidays, DiTomasso noted that sales numbers over the weekend at Prairie Creek were close to what they typically are during the summer.
The Crescent City Information Center is closed two days a week during the winter and has shorter operating hours, she said, while the visitors center in the Jed Smith Campground is usually closed during the winter season.
Since people can’t get information at the Hiouchi Visitors Center, they’ve been headed across the street to Jedediah Smith Campground, said Brett Silver, acting sector superintendent for Redwood National and State Parks.
“We’re seeing more people than we normally would in the day use area of the Jed Smith Campground because there isn’t any information (center),” he said
Meanwhile, California State Park maintenance crews are cleaning restrooms and collecting trash at a handful of sites on Redwood National Park land, Silver said. These sites include the restrooms at the Enderts Beach overlook, Lady Bird Johnson Grove and the rest area at the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center near Orick, he said.
Many of the restrooms that are closed have potable water that requires daily testing, Silver said, but with National Park Service employees furloughed there’s no one to do that.
“The pit toilets, we’ll clean those,” he said. “But the other ones, with no one checking the water, we can’t leave those open.”
Though California State Park employees are picking up the slack, National Park Service employees are furloughed or are working without pay while the shutdown of the federal government lasts. For Brad Maggetti, who works in interpretation and education for Redwood National Park, while the shutdown is unexpected, he is required to take a furlough every year.
Starting in the fiscal year, Maggetti said he and other national park service employees rotate who is furloughed and when. He said he took his furlough for about two weeks at the end of November.
“It can be as much as six weeks unpaid out of the year, so I’m used to that. I plan for that,” Maggetti said. “I already missed a check right before this and the first check I’m about to miss would be this one now. It makes me a little nervous, but it’s not anything I’m really biting my fingernails over.”
Maggetti, who leads guided programs for students from Del Norte, Humboldt, Curry and Jackson counties, said the holidays are often a time for he and his colleagues to get caught up and organized; to plan ahead for when school resumes. Even though he’s missing work, Maggetti said he’s still OK.
“If you’re just talking about the National Park Service, I’m sure there’s people that live paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “I consider myself fortunate that I don’t have to be that way, although it can be kind of hard to plan out your savings for things like this. It does eat into your savings. At the same time that’s what it’s for, unexpected things.”
Though she’s anticipating on having to cut back on expenses to make sure her family can pay for their mortgage, First 5 Executive Director Angela Glore, whose husband Michael works for the National Park Service, said her family will be OK financially since she is still working. However, she said she worries about the entry-level National Park Service staff.
For households with Redwood National Park employees, the effects of the shutdown will be especially hard, Glore said.
“A lot of national coverage talks about ‘the government’ being closed on holidays and weekends, suggesting this shutdown hasn’t had a big effect yet, but national parks are not closed on holidays and weekends,” she said. “Some employees have missed almost a full pay period already. That’s really hard for young entry-level employees who still have to pay rent and buy groceries and make student loan payments.”
Glore also noted that even though federal employees have been paid for time missed due to government shutdowns historically, it’s not guaranteed and can only happen once the government reopens.
Even though the shutdown may have funneled visitors into Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Silver said it’s fortunate that it occurred during Redwood National and State Parks slower months. Other national parks, such as Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California, have had it worse, he noted.
Though its restrooms and trash collection service have been closed and suspended since the shutdown began Dec. 22, Joshua Tree remained open, according to the Los Angeles Times.
On Wednesday, however, the Times reported that campgrounds at Joshua Tree are being closed and vault toilets will no longer be accessible to visitors since there aren’t any employees to pump them out. Park officials reported that human waste in public areas, off-road driving and other infractions were becoming a problem as the shutdown continues.
The month of December is among the most popular at Joshua Tree National Park with rangers counting 284,398 visitors in December 2017, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Silver noted that Redwood is not Joshua Tree.
“This is their summer,” he said of Joshua Tree National Park. “If this had happened in July here I wouldn’t want to think about the ramifications of how it affects the parks, affects the county, the tourism and all that. Hopefully if it doesn’t drag on too long we’ll get back to business doing what we do.”
Visitors can also help make life easier for park employees, Silver said.
“If you see a trash can overflowing maybe don’t throw trash on the ground,” he said. “We’ll get to it. We’re going to be a bit slower, if people would just bear with us through the process, we’d appreciate it.”
Though it’s not being updated because of the government shutdown, people can visit www.nps.gov/redw for more information. Visitors can also checkout the Redwood Parks Conservancy’s Facebook page and website at www.redwoodparksconservancy.org.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at email@example.com .