Everything You Can't Enjoy — the Parks, Museums and Panda Cam — as Government Shutdown Continues

Since the December government shutdown, numerous government workers have been sent home without pay as many recreational facilities are forced to shutter


While approximately 800,000 federal employees are affected by the ongoing government shutdown, the freeze’s effects don’t stop there: Fans of public spaces devoted to art, culture and hiking — even pandas — also have a lot to bemoan.

Federal operations closed on Dec. 22 over a stalemate instigated by President Donald Trump for his proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, a tent pole of his presidential campaign.

Since then, numerous government workers have been sent home without pay as many recreational facilities are forced to shutter by the sudden stop in funding.

To start, the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., which include 19 galleries, gardens and the National Zoo, closed on Wednesday.

They were initially kept open thanks to unused funds from the previous year, NBC News reports, but the money ran out after 11 days.

As part of this closure, the National Zoo’s beloved panda cams, which show thousands of fans worldwide the adorable activities of Tian Tian, Mei Xiang and Bei Bei, turned off. The elephant, lion and naked mole-rat streams are also no longer broadcasting.

The Zoo explained of the decision: “None of the Zoo’s live animal cams will broadcast if the Zoo closes for a government shutdown. The cams require federal resources, primarily staff, to run and broadcast. They are deemed non-essential.”

Smithsonian museums outside the District are also closed, but the National Mall and all open-air monuments, such as the FDR and Vietnam War Memorials, are open, along with privately-owned attractions, according to The New York Times. The most popular of these include the Washington National Cathedral, the National Building Museum and The Philips Collection.

In addition, the Library of Congress, the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, the Newseum, the National Building Museum, and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum are also still open, according to a list on the city’s website. Many D.C. destinations are also offering discounts and freebies to federal workers.

An only-partial closure of national parks has also been causing controversy. While a government shutdown in 2013 closed all national parks completely, the Trump Administration opted to keep them open but largely unstaffed — potentially creating unsafe conditions, the senior budget director at the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association, John Garder, told the Times.

“Keeping the parks open is clearly causing threats to health and safety of visitors as well as wildlife and natural and cultural resources,” Garder said. “We are worried about parks themselves, about park rangers who are demoralized and the many businesses that depend on visitors.”

According to the New York Daily News, some 80 percent of the National Park Agency’s workforce, which assures that facilities run safely and cleanly, has been furloughed in the shutdown.

For example, trash collections, visitors’ centers and restrooms are all closed at California’s Yosemite National Park and as a result, officials taped off two campgrounds after finding human feces on the trails, according to the Times.

Something similar happened in Joshua Tree, further south outside Los Angeles, which had to bar camping starting on Wednesday because of near-capacity toilets, CNN reports.

The website for Mount Rainier National Park in Washington warns visitors that while the gates remain open, entry is at their “sole risk.”

Joshua Tree National Park. MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty

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Meanwhile the elements have hindered access at other facilities, such as Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The Daily News reports a lack of plowing resulted in major road closures.

What’s more, if the shutdown continues, snow is expected to lock the gates of even more parks that are currently open.

Some parks, such as the Grand Canyon, have fully functioning restaurants and other services within, provided that they’re privately or state-owned.

“Regardless of what happens in Washington, the Grand Canyon will not close on our watch,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey told the Daily News. “If you have plans to visit the Grand Canyon over the weekend, keep ’em. The Grand Canyon will remain open.”

In addition to Arizona, a few states are paying out of their own pockets to keep tourist destinations open. The Times reports that New York is paying $65,000 so visitors can continue to peruse Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Puerto Rico is providing up to $80,000 so the San Juan National Historic Site can function for two weeks. Visitors’ centers at Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks in Utah are also open.

The shutdown is now in its 13th day with a path to imminent resolution unclear. Trump has been unwavering in his call for border wall funding — so far rejected by Congress. The incoming Democratic majority in the House has offered a fraction of Trump’s request. Negotiations are ongoing.

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