SYRACUSE, NY (WSKG) – The stalemate in Washington, D.C., that has created the nation’s longest federal government shutdown has shuttered national parks across the country, including several in upstate New York.
New York state stepped in to keep the Statue of Liberty open to the public, but many other state sites that are operated by the National Park Service have gone dark, including Fort Stanwix in Rome and the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls.
Zack Frank, a park ranger at the Women’s Rights park, says it’s taking a toll on him and his fellow employees who have been furloughed.
“Everyone wants to get back to work, they want to go and do the things that they’re good at and they went to school for and they trained for,” Frank said. “Right now, most people are living off the kindness of strangers or family or collecting unemployment insurance just to get by. People need money to live and with no money coming in, everyone is deeply affected – especially in smaller communities where they can’t rely as heavily on food banks.”
Frank has brought attention to the effect on the National Park Service through a series of videos that provide guides to the parks for those who are touring without the assistance of rangers.
“I took it upon myself to send out a positive message of the parks are important, here’s why, this is what we protect,” Frank said. “So even if the government is shut down we can still reflect on what makes the parks important and hopefully inspire people to volunteer to clean them up, to treat them respectfully, to just learn about them and educate themselves on why they matter.”
One park in central New York that has remained unaffected by the shutdown thus far is the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn. It has stayed open because it is jointly operated by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
Local tourism officials say the shutdown of area parks has not had a great impact on the local economy since visitation at these sites is typically lower during the winter months. But the potential consequences grow with each passing day.