Around The Shutdown: Lodging Blues, Apologize To The Ranger, Oil Keeps Flowing

As the partial shutdown of the federal government moved past its third day, news tied to the National Park System didn't evaporate. A glance around the system shows hard times for lodging concessions, a particularly outspoken congressman, and questions about websites and oil production.

* Lodging Blues

As the government's idleness drags on, it's exacting a severe financial toll from the major park concessionaires. Xanterra Parks & Resorts, which operates in Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Zion, Crater Lake, Death Valley, and Rocky Mountain national parks, loses just about $1 million in revenues every day the parks remain closed. That number does not include the ongoing overhead in the form of utilities and employee wages.

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The Old Faithful Inn is a relatively quiet place these days. Xanterra Parks & Resorts photo.

While Xanterra isn't able to guarantee work and pay for its employees, it is providing lodging and meals for up to three weeks, either free or at a nominal fee, depending on whether those employees are working during the shutdown. Salaried staff are receiving pay for three weeks.

While the Furnace Creek Resort Xanterra runs at Death Valley National Park is actually located on private property and not required to shut down, some guests with reservations are phoning in cancellations, which is understandable when you realize the surrounding park is technically closed to visitors. Xanterra also is seeing cancellations for its train that runs from Williams, Arizona, to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, and for its Grand Hotel in nearby Tusayan, Arizona.

ARAMARK Parks and Destinations, meanwhile, has an interesting situation at Olympic National Park, where it operates at Lake Crescent Lodge, Sol Duc Hot Springs, and Lake Quinault Lodge. While Lake Crescent and Sol Duc are inside the park, and so closed during the shutdown, Lake Quinault is just outside the park's southern boundary in the Olympic National Forest and remains open for business.

The lodge's occupancy has been hovering around 50 percent -- more on weekends, less on weekdays -- and is open year-round. You can check availability and make a reservation at this page. While you won't be able to enter the park unless the government gets back to work, there are lots of trails in the national forest to explore and enjoy.

* Apologize To The Ranger

U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, confronted a park ranger at the the World War II Memorial on the National Mall on Wednesday and got a bit outspoken in condemning the Park Service's handling of veterans wanting to visit the memorial.

Some visitors to the memorial took exception to the congressman's verbal tongue-lashing of the ranger, and complained that while the ranger was merely doing her job, Congress was failing at its.

The exchange between the Republican and the ranger, led to suggestions that people outraged by the congressman's behavior post "Apologize to the ranger" messages on his Facebook page.

* About Those Park Websites

It didn't take the National Park Service long to pull the plug on its park websites once the shutdown took effect. Some Internet surfers might wonder what the deal was, particularly when you consider 1) most of the content on park web pages is static, not posted daily, and 2) U.S. Forest Service websites were still operating.

Michael Litterest, a Park Service spokesman in Washington, said the decision to shutter the websites stemmed from the personnel needed to maintain them on a daily basis.

"All of the websites for the (Interior Department) bureaus are maintained in-house by our employees. Since all of those employees have been furloughed, there is no one to maintain, and with approximately 1 million hits per day, the site would crash without daily maintenance," he wrote in an email. "By contrast, some government agencies contract the maintenance of their sites and would be able to keep their sites live since the contractors wouldn't be affected by the shutdown.

"Of course, the sites were not taken down, per se; the pages still exists, we just added a service level redirect," he added. "The costs of that were negligible; essentially, it is the time that it takes to build a single page. That work was done by our Washington staff on Tuesday morning as part of the shutdown procedures before they went home."

* Oil Production From The Parks

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Gas production rolls on in the park system despite the shutdown. NPS photo of well at Padre Island National Seashore.

There are a small number of park system units where oil and gas production is not only allowed, but in operation. Big Thicket National Preserve and Padre Island National Seashore are two such units.

While those park units closed with the shutdown, the production did not cease.

"Oil and gas production is operated under a right-of-way, which conveys the legal right to access the sites, regardless of the status of appropriations," explained the Park Service's Mr. Litterest.


Mountainhiker, as has been pointed out, the Pisgah Inn operates under a concession with the National Park Service. Essentially, they rent the operation, they don't own the property or the buildings.

Other concessionaires in the national parks -- Xanterra Parks & Resorts, which operates the Old Faithful Inn and other lodgings in Yellowstone as well as on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and other parks, and DNC Parks & Resorts, which operates the lodges in Shenandoah and even the Peaks of Otter Lodge along the Blue Ridge Parkway for example -- also had to close their operations.

And during the shutdown back in 1995-96, the lodges on the Grand Canyon's South Rim were closed, so the impacts of this shutdown are not landmark.

Hmm Jim - looks like Arizona would keep the park open.

Kurt - you keep bringing up the "concessionair" point and ignoring the financing point. The "government" is in partially shut down because it isn't being financed. These operations don't require government financing. In fact, they generate income for the government. It makes absolutely no sense to close them but to cause the greatest inconvenience to the public.

I'm not ignoring it, EC, I'm just pointing to the legal justification for the closure of the Pisgah Inn.

And I'm not so sure about your point that "these operations don't require government financing." Can you document that? You have to maintain the home that you own, right, even if you rent it out, no? Have you heard about the Park Service's staggering maintenance backlog?

And sure, if the NPS kept open all the lodges across the Park System, they'd bring in money...but there would be no rangers to patrol the parks, prevent vandalism, respond to emergencies, etc, etc, etc. because there's no federal budget in place to pay for that workforce.

As for inconveniences, not being able to visit a national park is one, but not being able to meet your mortgage, pay your children's tuition, or pay for health care are greater and more substantial. Just ask the rangers who have been furloughed...and, as noted above, even some of the congressfolk who voted for this shutdown.

As for Arizona's offer, did they intend to put all the park's rangers back to work? Do they have the staff and expertise to patrol the Colorado River corridor and float trips? Would they bring in ranks of state employees to offer interpretation, provide emergency response, and provide all the other services and needs involved in running a national park the size and complexity of Grand Canyon?

I don't think it's quite as simple as saying, "Let's end the inconveniences by keeping the parks open."

Kurt Repanshek -- Why has Obama chosen to force the closure of the Pisgah Inn during a federal government shut down when no administration in the history of the United States -- either Democrat or Republican -- has ever do so?

Kurt - no doubt there are places where some concessions should be closed - i.e where monies are necessary to keep access open. The case of Pisgah, the WWII memorial, the French cemetaries and many more don't fit that mold. Either the funds are already allocated or there is no current operating cost. The fact that maintenance may need to be done 6 months from now or even next week is no excuse to close a revenue generating entity today.

These closures are purely for pain purposes.

As to Grand Canyon. Wouldn't it be better to have some of the park open than none? I don't think AZ promised to open every aspect of the park but I am sure the family with the scheduled vacation would be much happier that they can get in the gate even if they could do nothing else. These closurers and the Dems overwhelming vote to keep the parks closed is merely for spite. Only one with blinders would not see that.


Let's try it this way: How would answering or not answering those questions "destroy" the argument I am making?

All this seems to be an echo of the nonsense that is gumming up the hallowed halls of Congress. If all the energy that is has been expended in trolling, dodging questions, and twisting what others have tried to say, and spent trying to talk sense to one who refuses to listen were spent instead on actually seeking good solutions, the world would be much better off. So would our parks.

What I'm reading here is an almost exact replay of the idiocy in Washington. Some people seeking common sense and a small number of others successfully distracting and diverting attention and effort.

Meanwhile in other news, you can add Mike Lee (Ted Cruz's little poodle) to the list of Congresscreeps who told a TV reporter that he intended to keep his paychecks because he's "essential" and is "earning" them. (This is the same Mike Lee who had a bank foreclose on a million dollar vacation home because he missed too many payments.)

After the TV interview went viral, Lee's staff stepped in and said he'd been misunderstood and actually "intended" to donate his pay to charity. Lee then accused the station of "misrepresenting" what he'd said -- even though it was clearly recorded on tape.

ecbuck: "These closures are purely for pain purposes."

Apparently that is the one and only reason the Obama administration has chosen to do this. No previous administration -- either Democrat or Republican -- has ever closed the Pisgah Inn during a government shut down, even though the federal government has shut down 17 times previously. What I don't get is why Obama wants to hurt working Americans.

Armed guards at the entrance to Pisgah Inn preventing the public from choosing to do business there? Are you kidding me? What country is this??!!!!

Lapses in funding prior to 1980 were handled in a different manner because the law(The Antidefiency Act) was not applied in the same manner. Many agencies actually continued to function during pre-1980 spending lapses. It is only after 1980 when DOJ issued an opinion regarding the Antidefiency Act that this behavior changed. So the funding lapses prior to 1980 do not apply.

There have been 11 funding lapses that have resulted in shutdowns since 1980. Five of those 11 shutdowns started before October 31st, which is the date the Pisagh Inn closes for the season. Four of the five shutdowns lasted 1-2 days so the Inn probably didn't have to evict its guests as the funding was resolved within 48 hours.

The only shutdown that lasted more than 48 hours, happened after 1980, and started before October 31st was the 1990 shutdown. It lasted 4 days between Oct 5-9th. Maybe, the Pisagh Inn closed maybe it didn't.

There is an operating cost to the World War 2 Memorial, it has a visitor contact station and bathrooms.

it has a visitor contact station and bathrooms.

Which don't need to be open.

"Armed guards at the entrance to Pisgah Inn preventing the public from choosing to do business there? Are you kidding me? What country is this??!!!!"

Yeah, right. Sounds like something straight off the airwaves of hate radio.

A great example of the kind of incendiary exaggerations that prevent sensible people from reasoning with those who swallow lines like that. Let's try to make gullible people believe there is a contingent of troops, armed to the teeth with machine guns and heavy artillery out there manning the barricades when in reality it's almost certainly one bored and disgusted law enforcement officer who is not being paid for doing the job.

Lee - what Bill said is absolutely factual. He didn't exaggerate or imply anything about "troops" or "machine guns". That is totally your fabricated language.

Why don't you address the facts rather than going off on your normal attack the source (in this case, fabricated "hate radio")

ec, you really do need to take some remedial courses in reading comprehension. Are you unable to recognize exaggeration when you see or hear it? Exaggeration is not only in the words themselves, but in the way they are strung together and even the tone of voice used in expressing them. That's something we taught in fifth grade.

Maybe that's part of the problem right there. Some folks were daydreaming in class.


Look at the case of Mt Vernon. Despite the fact that Mt Vernon on Oct 1st @10:30am was tweeting out that the estate was open and so were the parking lots, some online media was saying that the Obama administration had shut down a private enterprise. Some of them were still reporting a day later that the estate was blocked.

The Mt Vernon website even had this message on a page labeled "stillopen"

"Despite some reports to the contrary, our parking lots are open and available. We stand ready to welcome all visitors to the home of our founding father and first president."

Thanks, Sara. That's exactly the kind of thing that we should all be watching for. A very, very important part of citizenship must be checking carefully to be certain something is truthful before repeating it. But that can be inconvenient -- and it might even prove to us that those we have chosen to hear are lying to us.

Unfortunately, too many among us are willing to blindly follow the lead of whoever is able to shout the loudest. And, unfortunately, the volume of their shouting is often in direct relation to the size of their bank accounts.

What would happen to those shouters if the majority of us took time to actually fact-check what they are saying? But too many will continue to choose to ignore facts and try to push for whatever delusional or deliberately dishonest agenda they have been sold.

Wow; ok; to be factual, I had read something about Pisgah Inn being blocked; however, being a former GM of a Blue Ridge Pkwy facility, I wanted to check the source; so I placed a long distance call to the Pisgah Inn to verify the information. Upon responding here, I used Pishgah Inns words - "Armed guards at the entrance to Pisgah Inn preventing the public from choosing to do business there?" - meaning NPS LE Rangers. They also stated that they were encouraging interested parties to share their concerns with their elected reps in Washington.

And yes, I do find this a bit unbelievable - and deplorable. As for 'hate radio', I would not waste my time listening to one second of that garbage.

Sara : " Maybe, the Pisagh Inn closed maybe it didn't. "

Sara, the Pisgah Inn has never before received an order from the federal government forcing it to close because of a federal government shut down. Neither has the Pisgah Inn ever closed of its own accord due to a federal government shut down. I live here in the Asheville area. I am a native here. The inn was built in my lifetime and I visit the inn routinely as it is only minutes away. Obama's is the first and only administration in U.S. history to force this closure.

Apparently, the very same thing is happening with another non-federal entity which has no federal employees and receives no federal money and has never before since becoming totally self-sustaining been mandated by any presidential administration to close during a federal government shut down. But under Obama, the Claude Moore Farm in Virginia has also been barricaded/shut down by the feds. " “For the first time in 40 years, the National Park Service (NPS) has finally succeeded in closing the Farm down to the public. In previous budget dramas, the Farm has always been exempted since the NPS provides no staff or resources to operate the Farm.” See

For anyone wishing to view local (Asheville NC) media coverage of the Pisgah Inn forced closing, you can find information here, with video coverage:

Pisgah Inn reopens, defies government shutdown (Asheville Citizen-Times)

Pisgah Inn Forced to Close (WLOS TV)

BillH52 "Armed guards at the entrance to Pisgah Inn preventing the public from choosing to do business there? Are you kidding me? What country is this??!!!!"

Yes, unfortunately, the (furloughed?) Blue Ridge Parkway park rangers were required to barricade all entrances to this private business, park their Blue Ridge Parkway vehicles in front of the barricades with lights flashing, ensure all guests were removed from the inn and all diners removed from the restaurant, and prevent any other people who are freely driving the Parkway from freely doing business with this private entity and its approximately 100 private employees. What the Obama administration has done to this small business and its employees and their families is unconscionable.

mountainhiker, Congress controls the purse strings, not this administration, nor past ones, nor future ones. But you've made your point.

Are you unable to recognize exaggeration when you see or hear it?

Oh I recognize it, and the only one it is coming from is you. What Bill stated was 100% fact.

Okay everyone, we've all made our stances very clear.

Now let's answer the BIG question.

What is a good solution that will cause the least harm to real people?

As for me, I'll be out on Antelope Island in the middle of the Great Saline Puddle for the next couple of days enjoying some beautiful weather, studying scenery, and climbing Friary Peak.

Let me know what you've decided when I get back.

but not being able to meet your mortgage, pay your children's tuition, or pay for health care are greater and more substantial. Just ask the rangers who have been furloughed...and, as noted above, even some of the congressfolk who voted for this shutdown.

Yes Kurt, I feel really, really bad for these poor folks that have to take a paid vacation. If we can vote that they get paid for this time, why can't we require them to show up and work.

Sarcasam? Who's getting paid for being on "vacation." Furloughs aren't vacations, and they're not getting paid until 1) the Senate agrees and 2) the shutdown ends.

Workers will not be paid until the shutdown — now in its fifth day — ends.

Doesn't sound like a vacation to me. And the ones I've talked with want to show up and go to work.

Kurt, I'm glad someone got my point. But no one has been able to answer my questions. Congress holds purse strings,but Pisgah Inn is not in any way dependent on federal money or federal services (according to the owner) and has never been shut down before. Similar situation with the Claude Moore Colonial Farm in Virginia which the current administration (not Congress) also directed to be shut down though it requires no money, staff or services from the feds.

So my question remains unanswered: Why did the Obama administration -- the first in history -- choose to do this harm to ordinary working people and citizens?

Doesn't sound like a vacation to me.

If they are getting paid on days they don't have to show up. Its paid vacation.

And just to be clear, I am not blaming the workers. They are doing what they are told. But I am not giving them pity either. There is little doubt the Senate will go along and no doubt the shutdown will end. As has happened in the past they will get paid even though the work won't be done.

Again, if the House can vote for them to be paid, why can't they make it contingent on them showing up to work.

What Bill stated was 100% fact.

Punctuation and all!

Actually, Claude Moore Colonial Farm took money from the Park Service in 1990.

"In 1990, after ten years of successful private operation of the Farm, the Congress, through the National Park Service, provided much-needed help with a $225,000 construction grant to replace the badly deteriorated 18th-century farm house and the maintenance/administrative facilities."

Also local DC Fox station, WTTG covered the story.

At the beginning of the story it says:

"Despite the fact that a local group has promised to pay for 100 percent of the operating costs, the National Park Service has closed down Claude Moore Colonial Farm"

later in the story it says:

"This history-oriented farm used to federally operated, but because of budget cuts in the early 1980s, a local non-profit in recent years has paid for 80 percent of the operating costs."

and this:

"As of October 1st, the Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm agreed to take over 100 percent of the costs of the facility."

Has this place really been operating the last 30 years only with private funds or not?

Is this not happening Sara?

Has this place really been operating the last 30 years only with private funds or not?

The issue isn't the historical funding. The issue is does the operation require federal funds for its day to day operations. If it doesn't require funds from the feds during the shutdown, there is no reason it should be shut down. And if it can still operate - even at reduced service levels - without fed funds, it should be allowed to do so.

To spend more money to keep entities shut than it cost to keep them open is pure lunacy.

ecbuck : "To spend more money to keep entities shut than it cost to keep them open is pure lunacy."

True, it is lunacy. And even if there was no cost involved at all, there is clearly no reason to do it -- other than pure mean-spirited reliation against citizens and workers. What the Obama administration is doing is (1) costly; (2) unnecessary; and (3) hideous because it does nothing more than target private citizens and working people.

Hiker - the sad thing is that many folks here won't admit it.

Hiker - the sad thing is that many folks here won't admit it.

ec, you are truly a gift that keeps on giving.

And with that, we're closed for business.