Visitors and employees impacted by YNP closure
The government shutdown is affecting not just furloughed Yellowstone National Park employees, but visitors as well.
A 41-passenger tour group spent two nights at the Old Faithful Inn. They spent Monday touring Yellowstone National Park like such groups do, entering at the North Entrance and making their way to Old Faithful by afternoon.
But when the federal government shut down when the House of Representatives couldn’t pass a budget resolution on the night of Sept. 30, Oct. 1 dawned to a different Yellowstone.
The tour director, Gordon Hodgson of Utah, learned his group would not be allowed to walk on any of the boardwalks located just outside their hotel, or visit any other geyser basins in the area.
Hodgson said the group was scheduled to spend two nights at the Inn. When they got up on Tuesday morning, they headed out to see Yellowstone for the day, planning to return to the Inn for their second night’s stay later in the day. Hodgson said they headed north out of Old Faithful and pulled over to let passengers out to take photos of bison.
Hodgson said in a phone interview Tuesday that a ranger pulled up behind the bus and told him he would have to get everyone back on the bus — recreation in Yellowstone was not allowed.
“She told me you need to return to your hotel and stay there,” Hodgson said. “This is just Gestapo tactics. We paid a lot to get in. All these people wanted to do was take some pictures.”
Hodgson said the ranger told him he could be convicted of trespassing if he disobeyed.
“The national parks belong to the people,” he said. “This isn’t right.”
Park spokesman Al Nash said that when the park is closed, it’s closed to all recreational use. Park staff have been pared down to those involved in the most basic life, health and safety issues.
“We don’t have staff on duty to deal with any ordinary operational issues,” Nash said Wednesday.
Hodgson said the gift shops, stores, rest rooms and visitor center at Old Faithful were all closed. A few other guests, sharing his group’s predicament, were in the area. The boardwalks to all the trails had “closed” signs and barricades.
“All we could do was eat dinner in the dining room. It was like a ghost town,” Hodgson said.
Hodgson said the visitors on his tour were very disappointed and some were very upset. They hailed from all around the United States and Canada, and there were a few people from Australia. They had come to see Yellowstone.
Hodgson said their plans for today, Tuesday, weren’t looking much better. Their next stop is Jackson, Wyo. They had a float trip scheduled on the Snake River through Grand Teton National Park — canceled. And plans to stop at the Colter Bay Visitor Center and Jackson Lake Lodge — also canceled.
“I’m going to call and email my representatives,” Hodgson said. “I am not a happy camper.”
Liz Kearney may be reached at email@example.com.