|Barrier at the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, October 8, 2013|
In spite of immediacy of these and countless other government supports and collaterals thereof, none were at the top of the sound-bite lists of closures. From the most benighted conservative to the most enlightened of liberal media outlets, the number one closure on every list was America's national parks. This caught me completely by surprise. No, it's not that I think I'm the only person who puts extremely high value on our parks (and national forests and monuments, shores and historic sites), it's that in times of personal and public disaster, alas, the parks are not likely to be savers of life and property.
|Google search page header, October 1, 2013. (Thanks to Google for use of the image without formal permission.)|
Just outside of most parks are gateway communities. Take Yellowstone, for instance, which has several adjacent communities that owe their existence, or if not their existence, their prosperity, to the park: Gardiner, Montana at North Entrance; the twin map-dot towns of Silver Gate and Cooke City, Montana at Northeast Entrance, and West Yellowstone, Montana to the west. Fifty miles beyond East Entrance is Cody, Wyoming, and just beyond South Entrance is the little tourist development of Flagg Ranch. These settlements are all about visitor amenities (museums, snow-mobile rental, guided tours), services (restaurants, lodging), and necessities (groceries, gas, medical care). Although not park service contractors, when the parks close, visitors cancel or divert and business activity is flat-lined.
There have been numerous studies of the benefits of national parks on the economy, and a variety of estimates on the negative effects of the shutdown -- all of them staggeringly large for an approximately 2-week period of downtime. The pundits who chose national parks to represent the immediate impact of the shutdown were right on the money.
|Barrier at the entrance to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, October 4, 2013|