(Jan. 11, 2019) The second longest federal government shutdown in United States history shows no sign of ending any time soon, and while it applies to smaller parts of the federal government, it still affects more 800,000 employees, including park rangers and other employees working at the Assateague Island National Seashore.
Several facilities within the national park limits have been closed, including bathrooms and visitor centers. Trash collection has been halted as well as any required road maintenance.
This does not mean the park itself is closed and left completely unpatrolled or observed, but those who are still working at the park are doing so without pay.
“There are still a couple personnel ‘patrolling’ the island,” Billy Weiland, communications manager for Assateague Coastal Trust, said. “I’m on the island just about every day and I’ve still seen a natural resource police vehicle as well as a [National Park Service] vehicle each time.
“It sounds like most of those that work year-round on Assateague are simply out of work and not receiving paychecks,” he continued. “Especially for those that are working without pay, I’m wondering how long they’ll be willing to do that should this shutdown go longer. Though I have my doubts that it will go for months, as our POTUS has said if appropriate funding for a border wall is not agreed on, if it should go on that long, I foresee some changes in the future, positive or negative.”
Park visitors have been picking up the slack for trash collection, Weiland said, but there have also been instances where guests are getting too comfortable near the wild animals without park services around.
“Issues such as trash collecting in some of the parking lots and such are being taken care of by vigilant park goers playing a good citizen card,” Weiland said. “[However,] I will say that with the absence of a full force of staff on the island, I’ve noticed some folks approaching horses too closely.
“I’ve received several pictures from an acquaintance that show some people in cars calling the horses up to the window,” he continued. “The park service, both state and national, makes it very clear that approaching the horses too closely or feeding them is prohibited. It protects the horses and it protects the visitors. But without the normal kind of enforcement, incidents are occurring.”
Since the shutdown has taken affect during the offseason, damaging or negative affects to the park itself have not shown up … at least not yet.