The Government Has Shut Down: Here’s What it Means for the Appalachian Trail
What does a government shutdown mean for the Appalachian Trail?
Like other recent closures, this is considered a “soft” closure, which means the Appalachian Trail will be “closed but accessible” and have minimum staffing.
This impacts all sections of the AT, including sections directly managed by the National Park Service and the US Forest Service.
While hikers and visitors will be able to access the length of the trail, no maintenance or visitor activities will be conducted. Closed facilities overseen by the NPS and USFS include restrooms, visitor centers, concessions, and information services. Emergency and other rescue services will be limited, and all trail users are entering NPS and USFS land at their own risk.
Volunteers are prohibited from working on the AT during the shutdown, and all NPS and USFS volunteer programs are currently suspended. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy will not be able to commence with regularly scheduled volunteer activities.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Harpers Ferry visitor center is not on federal land, and will remain open.
The shutdown also affects national parks and forests. Park gates will be open but facilities, such as visitors centers, will be closed. Gift shops, lodging, and gas stations that don’t require assistance from federal employees will remain open. Snow will not be plowed from roads.
Utah and Arizona will fund services at national parks such as the Grand Canyon and Zion during the shutdown, saying that tourism at both parks contributes heavily to local businesses.
How long will the shutdown last? Congress is back in session after a holiday recess but action appears dim on reaching a budget compromise with President Donald Trump.
This is at least the third time the trail and national parks have been affected by a government shutdown since 2013.
Lead image via Maggie Slepian
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