National Parks are minimally staffed (with workers not receiving paychecks) during the shutdown, leaving some parks vulnerable to joy rides and vandalism. Fossils have been stolen, and artifacts tampered with, Anzelmo said.
“Our National Parks have been an exemplar to the world, and now we look so foolish,” she said. “On some level, the harm being done by this shutdown can't even be calculated. I just don't know how you undo the damage.”
Some of the most popular parks require waiting on lists for years to visit certain areas: kayaking down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, for example, or climbing some of the country’s grandest mountains. For those who missed their spots, there’s no recourse other than starting over at the bottom of the list.
At this time of year, visitors flock to the East Coast parks to see autumn leavers, and to the Grand Tetons to hear the elk bugling during elk mating season.
“I have heard visitors here near Jackson (Wyo.) are just heartbroken,” Anzelmo said.
In the meantime, the Statue of Liberty and Grand Canyon used state funds to open Saturday for most of this week. Mount Rushmore will open Monday through Oct. 23. Rocky Mountain National Park will be open until Oct. 20. And Utah is spending $166,572 per day to reopen all its parks.
Views of such stopgap measures are mixed. Anzelmo worries opening some parks while others remain closed will further splinter the country. Others applauded the moves.
Don’t expect the barricades of the remaining parks to come down soon: A fiscal plan being hammered out by House Republican seemed to fall apart Tuesday morning, keeping the government in shutdown mode.
“It affects me personally and professionally,” Howells said. “Believe me, I want them open.”