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NoVA’s national parks are open, but shutdown limits services

A month into the partial government shutdown, visitor centers and other general services are limited at most parks.

Manassas National Battlefield Park // © Zack Frank, stock.adobe.com

The gates to many of the national parks in the Northern Virginia area remain open during the current government shutdown (now more than 30 days long) but they certainly aren’t operating at full capacity.

While hiking through the Shenandoah Valley or along the Appalachian Trail, and visiting historical sites like Manassas National Battlefield, can be enjoyed as long as the national parks remain open, the currently missing services cause not only inconveniences, but in some cases, potentially dangerous situations.

At Manassas National Battlefield, there are no visitor services available and a number of facilities and areas have been closed, including the Henry Hill Visitor Center, Chin Ridge Loop Road, Brawner Farm Interpretive Center, Brownsville Picnic Area and all restrooms and vault toilets.

It’s a similar situation at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park and Great Falls, where NPS-provided services are not available. This includes some emergency and rescue services, as all of the nps.gov pages for the parks have some warning to potential visitors that hazardous or dangerous conditions may exist because of the limited services.

Shenandoah National Park has been able to use funds that it had from entrance, camping and parking fees to continue to provide limited services where federal appropriations lapsed as a result of the shutdown, including snow removal, sanitation services and trash collection. However, visitor centers, ranger contact stations and other safety facilities remain closed.

The National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Program Office, meanwhile, is completely closed during the government shutdown. So are all Smithsonian institutions, which in NoVA includes the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Park facilities run by the state, or by individual counties, remain open however, with all of their programming and services still being offered.

As the shutdown continues, the access to the national park sites could change. With the nps.gov site not being updated, visitors are encouraged to check out doi.gov/shutdown for the most up-to-date information.

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