By Jim Misunas
LARNED — As expected, the National Park Service (NPS) has closed all 401 national parks, including Fort Larned National Historic Site, because of the shutdown of the federal government caused by the lapse in appropriations.
George Elmore, chief ranger, said the popular Fort Larned Candlelight Tour scheduled Oct. 12, is still scheduled, but the event could be postponed if the issue is not resolved in the next few days.
“We sold out reservations by noon Monday,” Elmore said. “It’s one of our most popular events of the year.”
Fort Larned National Historic Site hosts an average of 50 visitors in October. Visitors spend about $1.4 million a year in the communities within 60 miles to Fort Larned National Historic Site.
“Our statistics show that 15 percent of our visitors are from outside the United States,” Elmore said. “People travel a great distance to see Fort Larned. The weather has been ideal.”
At Fort Larned National Historic Site, 14 employees are on furlough because of the shutdown. Elmore and a maintenance employee remain on duty, providing security and emergency services.
All visitor facilities including the park grounds, historic buildings and Visitor Center are closed. The park will remain closed until the government reopens.
In addition, all park programs and special events have been canceled, including school tours and scheduled off site talks.
Fort Larned’s last shutdown lasted 21 days, from Dec. 15, 1995 to Jan. 6. 1996.
Nationally, more than 715,000 visitors a day frequent the National Park System. Nationwide, the NPS stands to lose approximately $450,000 per day in lost revenue from fees collected at entry stations and fees paid for in-park activities such as cave tours, boat rides and camping.
Gateway communities across the country see about $76 million per day in total sales from visitor spending that is lost during a government shutdown.
Nationwide the shutdown has also furloughed more than 20,000 National Park Service employees; approximately 3,000 employees remain on duty to ensure essential health, safety, and security functions at parks and facilities. About 12,000 park concessions employees are also affected.
Because it will not be maintained, the National Park Service website will be down for the duration of the shutdown. NPS.gov has more than 750,000 pages and 91 million unique visitors each year.
For updates on the shutdown, please visit www.doi.gov/shutdown. About the National Park Service. National Park Service employees care for America’s 401 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities.