The Everglades and South Florida parks are open for business and here’s the reason why.
Excerpt: In national parks around the country left understaffed by the government shutdown, trash is piling up, bathrooms are overflowing and visitors are running amok. But not in South Florida.
Thanks to a small army of nonprofit staffers and the private companies that do business in South Florida’s four national parklands, a handful of visitor centers remain open and garbage is being collected.
At Everglades National Park, one of the most visited in the nation, “the parks are open, the concessions are operating and the Everglades Association is staffing visitor centers,” South Florida National Parks Trust executive director Don Finefrock said in an email.
During the last government shutdown in 2016, visitors’ centers at the parks were closed. This year, the government allowed them to remain open as long as they don’t use government resources or personnel.
Bottom Line: The story does go on to provide some cover to the notion that it’s still not the same without the park rangers working as usual, but the broader point remains. Who do the park rangers work for? They work for us, right? These are our national parks. So, if they’re not working as usual what keeps us from stepping in to help keep our parks clean? Nothing actually so kudos to the volunteers who are doing so. We’re not a country founded on the notion that we can only do what our government enables us to do. This country was founded on the exact opposite principle.
What I find most interesting is what isn’t happening. Where are the usual park employees? Furloughed of course you’ll say. Ok, right. But here’s the thing. If they really cared as much as we want them to care about our parks why aren’t they on the front lines volunteering with the others? You’d point back to the line I shared with you from the story, as long as they don’t use government resources or personnel. Well, if someone who’s furloughed isn’t representing a federal agency but is simply volunteering to help what’s the issue? And do you really mean to tell me that if someone who’s a park employee was “caught” volunteering there’d be the public will to take action against that person who clearly cares about keeping the parks clean and usable?
Regardless, this is another teachable moment. The reason why parks were completely closed in previous shutdowns is due to the desire to prevent people from enjoying them to attempt to exact a political outcome. As I illustrated during previous shutdowns where parks weren’t accessible, more money was spent on security to keep people out of the parks than would have been spent to have the usual park employees do their jobs. That’s the rest of the story that once again you won’t hear anywhere else.
Photo by: Getty Images North America