For the fist time since the fall of 2013, America is in the throes of a dreaded government shutdown. Turn on cable news or rifle through your Facebook feed, and you’ll quickly be reminded of the type of partisan hysteria that ensues during a hugely consequential political stunt like the one we are currently facing.
While both the Democrats and the Republicans are busy pointing the finger of blame directly at the face of their nearest partisan counterpart, folks in real world—folks who love to hike, climb, mountain bike, fly fish and otherwise enjoy our outdoor rich region’s vast network of public lands—are wondering how this shutdown will affect places like Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks, the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, and the Blue Ridge Parkway that connects all of them.
Here’s what you need to know about public lands and the government shutdown in a nutshell.
1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park will remain open. Sort of.
According the Knoxville News Sentinel, the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Park, which draws more annual visitors than any other park in the country, will strive to keep roads and trails accessible, but don’t count on any NPS employees being around if you should need them. Park restrooms, campgrounds, and visitor centers that are normally open during the winter months with be shuttered and no backcountry camping permits will be issued.
2. Certain parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway will be closed.
While you can still drive on the parkway during this latest government shutdown, certain parts that were closed due to recent snow and ice storms will not be reopened until our staggering legislature gets its collective act together. Services and facilities such as bathroom and visitor centers will also be closed along the parkway. According to NPS, which administers the famous byway, access to various sections of the parkway may change without notice.
3. What about Shenandoah?
According to a local news station out of Roanoke, Virginia, Shenadoah National Park will also be affected by the shutdown, as a recording from park headquarters in Luray said visitors can go to the park at their own risk, but no park rangers will be on site to assist if there is an emergency.
4. Skyline Drive
Also managed under the auspices of NPS, Skyline Drive will remain open for the foreseeable future.
5. Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests
Together, these two national forests comprise more than one million acres of the western North Carolina mountains and provide the bulk of the region’s outdoor recreation opportunities. Luckily, the feds aren’t trying to keep people off of this beloved swath of public land, but they are shutting down the bathrooms and visitor centers. According to the Asheville Citizen Times, only essential forest service employees such as law enforcement and firefighters will remain on the USFS payroll during the shutdown.