Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks have officially been closed down until further notice due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The two are just a couple of examples of the thousands of national landmarks, monuments, and cultural establishments that have been indefinitely closed down due to ongoing public health concerns.
The closings come as a direct response to the potential risk of exposure to COVID-19, which as we know is an extremely contagious virus. Public access to the National Park Services throughout the United States were already limited, however, officials were trying to keep them open for as long as possible to motivate people to still get out of their house and move around, just at a safe distance from everyone else. In fact, a major part of the initial social distancing initiative did encourage people to go outside and go for a walk while maintaining a safe distance of at least eight feet from everyone else.
Now, local and state officials alike have been enforcing that all national parks, and local ones as well, be closed to the public. According to the official statement from Yellowstone, all highways, roads, state boundaries, and any “facilities that support life safety and commerce” that are technically a part of national park boundaries will still remain open.
“The National Park Service listened to the concerns from our local partners and, based on current health guidance, temporarily closed the parks. We are committed to continued close coordination with our state and local partners as we progress through this closure period and are prepared when the timing is right to reopen as quickly and safely as possible,” said Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly and Grand Teton Acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail in the statement.
Yellowstone and Grand Teton are two of the nation’s most popular parks, both are visited by about 4 million people every year. While they may have announced their indefinite closings, there’s still no official national shutdown on all of the 419 national park sites in the US. The national park systems in the US cover about 85 million acres of land throughout all 50 states and several territories under America’s jurisdiction.
However, it wouldn’t be surprising if a national shutdown is what comes next in terms of restrictions to stop the spreading of COVID-19. So far, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is America’s most popular national park, recently announced that they could be closing all surrounding park areas until the beginning of April “in a continuing effort to support federal, state, and local efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Rocky Mountain National Park, Ellis Island, The Statue of Liberty, and the Washington Monument are a few more examples of National landmarks/parks that have also officially closed, most of which claim that they’ll be reopened to the public in April, however, as we’ve learned, this is a day-by-day pandemic.
Visitors to the national park sites throughout America give about $20 billion to the park systems every year through their contributions upon visiting. Typically, national park’s don’t charge any entrance fees, however, many donate upon entry because they know that the money goes back into the local regional communities.
Visitor contributions have led to over 300,000 new jobs, about $13 billion in labor income, and a total of $40 billion in economic output; output meaning the money that was indirectly put into other markets and industries thanks to tourists visiting national parks. These stats have made a lot of people within the park service worried about the state of their industry.
“With 18.2 million visitors annually across 14 different NPS sites, it’s impossible to overstate the impact these sites have on all sorts of communities across our state. The NPS sites are the main reason people are visiting, which leads to $1.3 billion in spending and more than 20,000 jobs statewide. For many rural communities that are struggling to maintain their economic vitality, these sites are crucial to their ability to survive,” said Wit Tuttell, Director of Visit North Carolina.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.