News from the Parks | Big Bend Closes, Yosemite…
This episode of the show was written and hosted by Jason Epperson.
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Welcome to this month’s “News From the Parks” episode of the America’s National Parks Podcast, where we round up for you the latest info about happenings at America’s Greatest treasures.
Covid-19 continues to affect the operation of the units of National Park Service, which is no more evident than at Big Bend National Park. A member of the park’s residential community tested positive for the coronavirus. The enacted measures set forth in its COVID-19 response plan, and shut down the park immediately on Thursday morning, July 2nd. Only employees and residents will be allowed in and out for the time being at Big Bend, as well as the neighboring Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River unit.
Up at Glacier National Park, the Blackfeet Nation has entirely shut down to visitors, effectively closing the eastern side of Glacier National Park for the rest of the season. Residents of the 1.5-million-acre reservation that is adjacent to the national park in northern Montana have higher risk factors than the general population.
The closure means that access to Glacier will only be through the western side, and that visitors planning on driving the Going to the Sun Road will have turn around and head back.
At Yosemite, the National Park Service has walked back plans to re-open campgrounds. Reservations for all campgrounds have been canceled through July 31 arrivals, except Upper Pines, which is open to 50% capacity.
Covid-19 hasn’t been the only difficulty for National Parks this past month, however. Fires have been raging in several states across the Nation. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon was shut down for most of June by a fire, and is now day-use-only. Just the threat of fire closed several trails in Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park.
The body of one of three hikers missing at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington has been found.
28-year-old Matthew Bunker, was found along the base of Liberty Ridge after he fell into steep terrain while skiing. Bunker graduated from the U.S. Military Academy West Point in 2013, and served five years in the military.
Two other hikers have also gone missing at the park in separate incidents, and have yet to be found. National Park Service officials are asking that anyone who is visiting a park at this time refrain from riskier activities, in order to while hospitals and rescue teams are inhibited by the Coronavirus.
The Great American Outdoors Act has passed the United States Senate, which promises to help fund the National Park Service’s $12+ billion maintenance backlog, as well as other shovel-ready public lands projects with oil and gas lease funds. The bill is expected to pass the house, and the president is expected to sign it. If you want to hear more about it, check out our recent interview on the Americas National Parks podcast with Marcia Argust from Pew Charitable Trusts.
Finally, July 4, 2020 kicks of a celebration in the National Parks to commemorate 250th anniversary of the signing of the declaration of independence in 2026. The National Park Service is partnering with the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission—also known as “America 250″ to put on events that interpret our countries heritage and continuing journey. The 6-year event will take place at National Park Service sites across the country.
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