Because the shutdown of the federal government caused a lapse in appropriations, the National Park Service (NPS) has closed all 401 national parks, including Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. All visitor facilities including visitor centers, park hotels, campgrounds and roads are closed. The park will remain closed until the government reopens.
Woody Smeck, superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, gave park visitors in all overnight campgrounds and lodges until 3 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on October 3 to make travel arrangements and leave the parks. In addition, all park programs and special events have been canceled.
Chambers of commerce throughout Tulare County, along with the Visalia Convention & Visitors Bureau, have been responding to inquiries from tourists whose travel plans are being affected by the closures.
“We sympathize with our visitors who now have to change plans at the last minute,” said Visalia Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Glenn Morris. “What we hope they discover, though, is that there is still a lot to do in the area and they can still experience the beauty and wonder of our area.”
While access is barred into the Sequoia National Park itself, many areas are still accessible in the Sequoia National Forest. Visitors can still camp on National Forest lands with limited facilities available. They can also hunt, hike, and if they have a fuelwood permit issued prior to October 1, they can cut firewood in areas allowed according to their permit.
For those wishing to visit the Giant Sequoia trees, options are still available. Balch Park, above Springville, is still open and is home to many Giant Sequoia groves, including the Methuselah Tree, and offers visitors fishing, swimming, picnicking and hiking. Balch Park is also easily accessible by tour buses and private automobiles.
Belknap Grove is another destination affording visitors many opportunities to enjoy these unique trees.
Belknap is made up of three smaller groves and is accessible on the Nelson Trail from either Camp Nelson or the Quaking Aspen area. Here visitors can enjoy trails through old-growth sequoias that travel along Bear Creek and the Tule River. Lodging is also available in nearby communities for those not wishing to camp in areas with no amenities.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks host 3,900 visitors on average each day in October, and 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. Visitors spend approximately $121,892,000 a year in the communities around Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
In Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, 284 employees are now on furlough because of the shutdown. A total of 63 employees remain on duty, however, providing security and emergency services.
Nationwide, the shutdown has also furloughed more than 20,000 National Park Service employees, with approximately 3,000 employees remaining on duty to ensure 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.