Rocky Mountain National Park will not be closed in the event of a threatened federal government shutdown, it was announced Friday.

Park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson issued a brief statement late Friday, which stated: "In the event of a shutdown, National Park system units, including Rocky Mountain National Park, would remain as accessible as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures.

"Roads that are already open would remain open, weather and road conditions permitting. However, visitor services will be limited. Services that require staffing and maintenance, such as entrance stations, the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, the Kawuneeche Visitor Center, Moraine Park Campground, and most restroom facilities will not be operating."

There will be limited park staff to respond to emergency situations, she said.

On the surface Friday, there seemed to be a lack of urgency around the pending shutdown, at least by judging the Rocky Mountain National Park official Twitter account, which earlier in the day tweeted a photo of a mountain panorama under sunny skies with the comment, "Who has seen the wind (look at all the blowing snow, especially between the peaks)."

But behind the scenes, park officials were scrambling to prepare for what will be happening — and what won't — in the days ahead.


Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith posted on Facebook on Friday assuring that whatever the staffing, visitors will still be able to get into the park.

"You may not be able to access buildings, but they won't be blocking your ability to walk or drive into parks," he posted.

"I will be reaching out to officials at Rocky to let them know that the LCSO will respond to any requests for assistance within the park, just as we do throughout the year. The safety of visitors should never be in play."

Rocky Mountain National Park claimed 4,517,207 visitors in 2016. Of those, 115,207 came in the month of January. Only February and December saw lower totals that year.

According to, national parks lost $450,000 a day during the 2013 shutdown, and thousands of low-wage workers, lacking funding or a place to go, faced a serious food shortage. Thousands of people were stranded inside Grand Canyon National Park, most of them employees of hotels, restaurants and other companies that operate inside the park boundaries.

During the federal government shutdown of 2013, which ran from Oct. 1 through Oct. 16, it was estimated by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees that Rocky Mountain National Park had lost more than $4.8 million in tourist dollars.

Rocky Mountain National Park was actually reopened several days before the end of the 2013 shutdown, thanks to an agreement between the Interior Department and Gov. John Hickenlooper, under which Hickenlooper donated $362,700 in state funds to bring back furloughed National Park Service employees.

Federal agencies file their contingency plans for "absence of appropriations" furlough to the Office of Management and Budget.

The National Park Services' plan, dated this month, states, "As a rule, staffing will be held to the amount needed for the protection of life, property and public health and safety.

"Staffing levels will be based on the assumption that the NPS is conducting no park operations and providing no visitor services. While parks may still be accessible to visitors, parks may not use the presence of visitors in the park to justify higher staffing numbers than approved during previous shutdowns."

The Denver-based Center for Western Priorities on Friday criticized the actions of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who advocated for the plan to permit the parks to function without rangers or other staff on site in the event of a shutdown.

"Secretary Zinke is more concerned about the politics and optics of a shutdown than he is about doing what's right for the American people and America's parks," Executive Director Jennifer Rokala said in a statement. "Trying to keep our national parks open without visitor centers, park guides or even more restrooms carries huge risks to public safety, public health and our natural resources.

"This half-baked plan will endanger park visitors and the skeleton crew of first responders that would remain on the job during a shutdown."

In a parks development unrelated to the shutdown, nine of the 12 members on the National Park System Advisory Board earlier this month sent a letter to Zinke announcing their resignations, effectively dissolving the board. That move was an act of protest over Zinke's failure to meet with them at all during the first year of the Trump administration.

That came at a time when the Interior Department, which manages 500 million acres of public land, is facing the prospect of about 4,000 job cuts.

Charlie Brennan: 303-473-1327, or