Visitors are again able to explore the 1 million acres of Glacier National Park after Republicans and Democrats agreed to reopen the government following a 16-day shutdown.
Late Wednesday night, Congress passed a bill that funds the government through Jan. 15, 2014 and raise the debt ceiling, allowing the Treasury Department to borrow normally through February.
According to park spokesperson Denise Germann, the barriers at park entrances were taken down early Thursday morning and rangers were inspecting buildings and the Going-to-the-Sun Road this morning. The park planned to have 29 miles of the Sun Road open from West Glacier to Big Bend as soon as rocks could be swept off the roadway. When the road is clear of debris, public access will be available to Big Bend through Sunday, Oct. 20.
“We are pleased to have the park open for visitors and continue with our responsibilities of managing and protecting the resources,” Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow said.
Approximately 250 park employees were furloughed during the shutdown and roughly 20-30 park employees continued to manage the park and provide for protection of federal lands, waterways, buildings, equipment and other property owned within park, according to officials.
Germann says the Apgar campground is open and the Apgar visitor’s center is open on the weekends, but many other seasonal businesses had closed before the Oct. 1 government shutdown.
Visits by school groups will resume while park employees begin preparing the park and its facilities for winter.
“Weather systems have been consistently bringing rain, snow, and winter conditions through the upper elevations of the park, including the alpine section of the Going-to-the-Sun Road,” Mow said.
On Oct. 1, Glacier and all 401 National Park Service sites were closed because of the government shutdown. More than 20,000 park employees were furloughed, representing 87 percent of the Park Service’s workforce. About 25 employees stayed behind and secured the park during the shutdown. According to the National Parks Conservation Alliance, 750,000 visitors were turned away from national parks everyday during the shutdown.
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