EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, Fla. – At the end of the 12th day of partial government shutdown, a private non-profit group helped keep Florida's national parks active for visitors.
Elsewhere, especially in the West, visitors report overflowing bins, clogged toilets and vandalism. Some parks have even closed certain areas for the sake of visitor and wildlife safety.
In Florida, although not all services are available during the closure, employees of the Florida National Parks Association manage to do the basic maintenance – at the moment.
The four parks – Big Cypress National Park, Biscayne National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park and Everglades National Park – are closed but accessible. The National Parks Service indicates that visitors may enter the parks at their own risk.
Thousands of National Park rangers – who lead tours and assist visitors who are lost or injured – have been laid off until Congress and President Donald Trump reach an agreement to fund the government.
James Sutton, executive director of the Florida National Parks Association, said his workers were overwhelmed and took on duties such as managing the park, taking tours to clean the bathrooms.
"(That's) limited business, not everything is open, so the forest ranger program will not work for you, it does not happen," Sutton said. "There are 59 people on the payroll right now and these 59 people, usually a lot of them are part time, they are not full time."
Sutton stated that his volunteers had kept the visitor center at the Everglades National Park, but that the Biscayne National Park was closed.
Luna Dong of Seattle is visiting Miami with her family and says the park's limited services have put a stop to her vacations in South Florida.
"My parents, they come from China and it may be the only time they come to enjoy the national parks in Miami.It is good that we can still enjoy it, but it is a pity that we do not can not take full advantage of it, "Dong said.
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