To help curb some of the damage cause to income and tourism by the Congressional-led government shutdown, state governments are now permitted to open National Park units they deem most important, provided they can find the money.
Governors from both political parties are scrambling for funds from state reserves and corporate donors alike so that they can salvage local economies that rely upon visitorship to National Park units. The shutdown is estimated to cost the American economy at least $152 million a day in tourism losses alone.
On Friday, October 11, Colorado and Utah opened Rocky Mountain National Park, Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capital Reef National Park, and Zion National Park. National Bridges and Cedar Breaks national monuments and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area are also open. Funding is currently scheduled to run out after 10 days.
The Grand Canyon in Arizona has also reopened.
South Dakota has come up with the $15,200 required to open Mount Rushmore each day, so it, too is now open.
Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC, has re-opened with the funding of a private donor.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has re-opened.
New York City has also found funds to make the Statue of Liberty available to visitors, at least until October 17th, when funding runs out again. (Ellis Island, which shares the ferry with the Statue, has been closed since Sandy hit New York a year ago.)
All of the reopened units are, of course, some of the biggest money-makers. There are hundreds of smaller units that tell the story of our nation and its resources, and they are still shuttered. If you want to learn about the founding father Roger Williams in Providence, the sacrifices made at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the Tuskegee Airmen in Alabama, or the San Antonio Missions in Texas—you may not. Nor may you enjoy nature from Yosemite National Park to Everglades National Park in Florida. All forbidden.
The shutdown has made it painfully clear how easily a capricious government can choose to cut off its citizens from its own heritage.
Update: October 16, 10:15 pm: The shutdown is over. The House has passed funding, and Obama has vowed to sign it.