Visitors and businesses upset at Mt. Rainier National Park shutdown

Mt. Rainier National Park closure has visitors upset (PHOTO: KOMO News)

The gates are locked tight at the entrances to Mount Rainier National Park because of the federal government shutdown and visitors are upset. It is hurting more than just workers and visitors.

It is a rare sight to have the main gate shut at the Nisqually entrance to the park. "Due to the unavailability of park staff to provide essential public services and ensure continued road safety for visitors," says a recorded statement as your near the park. "This closure to public vehicles is expected to continue until further notice."

Yunhee and Neal Carlson had hoped to check out the park, but didn't even get out of the car when they saw the main gate closed. "A kind of a disappointment," said Neal. "We'd like to go on some hiking trails and kind of see the area."

The National Park Service said it is serious about the gate. It doesn't even want you walking in because it's just too dangerous. That is because there is snow on the roadways and more to come. With no workers to keep it clear it's just too risky to allow anyone in.

"We were hoping to come out to the park today and take some photographs and try to get up in the snow a little bit," said Ken Grant who was hoping to get into the park Monday. But instead they had to turn around. "It's a little disheartening. I know they're trying to deal with financial stuff and try to get things worked out, but it's still our national park and we like to come up here and enjoy it year round."

It is not just the federal workers and visitors that are impacted. It's all the businesses leading up to the park entrance who are depending on those tourism dollars.

"It is a tragedy that the park isn't open," said Phil Freeman, owner of Copper Creek Inn & Restaurant. He says the total closure is really going to hurt business. "And all of the people economically affected by that have no recourse. You know we're not going to get reimbursed by the federal government, I don't believe."

"Yes, they're losing money," said park visitor Adonis Baldenegro. "Everybody is losing money." He brought the family to enjoy the park only to be turned away. "The government is shut down. It's not fair for everyone, especially for the people who work at the national park or federal government."

Everyone we spoke to just hopes for a quick end to the shutdown so the park can unlock that gate.

The tourist spots near the entrance say there actually are things to do just outside the park including 65 miles of groomed trails for cross country skiing and snow shoeing.

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