By Emily Harris
Cue the sighs of relief—our government is once again up and running. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ve heard about the chaos surrounding the government shutdown after Congress failed to agree on the federal budget. The shutdown affected everyone differently—whether it meant being furloughed or subjected to the endless banter between the media and prominent political figures.
Between the closed government offices and thousands of government employees out of work, there was plenty to talk about—somehow, the discussion often came back to the closing of national monuments and national parks. While canceling third grade field trips to the White House is unfortunate, it’s trivial compared to the seriousness of a dysfunctional government.
The first thing I saw when I turned on the news a couple of weeks ago was people protesting in Virginia because the beaches in Chincoteague were closed. The shutdown was still in its early stages at this point, so I hadn’t even fully realized how far-reaching the effects could be.
As insignificant as it seems at first, closing national parks and landmarks doesn’t present a great first impression to visitors. Imagine coming to the U.S. for the first time, prepared to partake in all of the typical tourist activities, only to find the Grand Canyon is closed and the Lincoln Memorial isn’t accepting any visitors.
National parks aren’t always acres of endless wilderness, but anything from forests to mountains to glaciers can be an escape from a hectic schedule. Ironically, these parks were preserved so that nature could remain relatively unaffected by the outside world—yet the moment the government closes visitors are unable to enjoy a place that can help them disconnect from the babble surrounding something like…a government shutdown.
Obviously if the government can’t pay park rangers, there would be no way to keep park visitors safe and informed. But the consequences were pretty extreme: according to the National Park Foundation website, over 11 million visitors were denied access to the 400 parks all over the United States. Not to mention all of the money that could have been going into the park system and the surrounding towns.
Now it may not seem very important to miss out on a vacation or a chance to put reality on hold, but if we don’t have those opportunities, what’s left? We were forced to face the fact that not even a weekend traversing Yellowstone is immune to the shortcomings of Congress.
Beyond the basic inconvenience, if we don’t have the celebrated aspects of the U.S. like the national park system, there’s not much left to redeem the country from ridiculous spectacles like the one we all witnessed these past few weeks. Not to mention the fact that Yosemite didn’t get to celebrate its two hundred and thirtieth birthday to the fullest. If wilderness has been set aside, beyond the reach of our constantly growing civilization, we should try our best to keep it that way.