U.P.’s national parks remain closed

MUNISING – As the peak of fall color tourism season arrives, the federal government shutdown has forced the closure of national parks and wildlife refuges from Pictured Rocks to the Huron Islands to Isle Royale in the Upper Peninsula.

With Congress failing to agree on a continuing budget resolution by the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year, the National Park Service announced Tuesday it had closed the country’s 401 national parks.

“All park grounds, visitor centers, hotels, campgrounds and park roads -except for thruways- are closed,” park service officials said in a news release. “All programs are canceled and permits issued for special events on park grounds nationwide are rescinded.”

Park visitors camping in lodges or campgrounds were given until 6 p.m. Thursday to make other arrangements and leave the parks.

In the U.P., the National Park Service closure affects Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Alger County, the Keweenaw National Historical Park and Isle Royale National Park.

However, on Saturday, park visitors were disregarding closed signs, police-style tape, construction barrels and hazard cones put up by Pictured Rocks staff.

On Miners Castle Road, half the roadway remained blocked at the park border, but someone had pushed aside a construction barrel, opening traffic to Miners Castle, Miners Beach and Miners Falls.

At Munising Falls, park visitors avoided the blocked off parking lot and instead parked along Washington Street in Munising. An 800-foot pathway leading up to the falls had two strings of the tape strung across the entryway.

A woman heading for the falls simply stepped over the first tape.

“Well that worked, huh,” she asked rhetorically.

The second line of tape had been ripped down previously.

A mother and father led their two young children up the pavement toward the falls, where another couple was taking photographs.

The federal government shutdown also furloughed employees and closed some places in the Hiawatha and Ottawa national forests. The lodge at Valley Spur had a closed sign on the door. However, the campground at Bay Furnace was open, with its last camping day for the season posted as today. The Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Schoolcraft County was also affected with refuge lands, visitor centers and other facilities. Hunting and fishing are not allowed and walking, biking and other activities are curtailed with access to refuge property closed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.