Border Patrol, Customs stay vigilant, but area national parks will close if budget agreement fails
By ROBERT HALPERN
FAR WEST TEXAS – The two national parks in Far West Texas will close if Congress fails to reach a budget compromise by midnight Friday, but federal law enforcement personnel will remain on the job, officials said late Friday afternoon.
“All personnel in security and law enforcement will continue to do their jobs,” said Marfa Border Patrol Sector spokesman Bill Brooks, including the agency’s air operations and Customs agents at the Presidio port of entry.
At Fort Davis National Historic Site, the entry gate won’t open at is regular time of 8am Saturday, said John Heiner, a park ranger and chief of visitor services.
“We will be closed until further notice,” he said of the impending government shutdown.
One ranger likely will remain on duty for resource protection, Heiner said.
It’s a bit more complicated at Big Bend National Park, where tourists can camp or stay at lodge accommodations in the Chisos Mountains basin.
Supervisory Park Ranger Mark Flippo called it a “soft approach” to the closure over a 48-hour period beginning Saturday morning, allowing tourists to leave the park as they come out of the backcountry.
But all further hiking and camping have to cease Saturday morning, he said, adding that the visitor centers also will close.
Park law enforcement personnel will be stationed at the parks two entrances, from US 385 from Marathon and Texas 118 from Alpine, alerting visitors that the park is closed. However, the two entry roads likely will remain open as will San Vicente School.
All tourists must vacate the park by Monday morning.
“Hopefully (Congress) will resolve this over the weekend and we’ll be back in business Monday,” Flippo said.
He said the soft closure plan came together in the last few hours of Friday in consultation with National Park Service officials in Washington, DC, and at regional headquarters in Denver, Colorado.
And like at Fort Davis NHS, a small staff will remain on duty for safety and to protect park resources.
“We’re not just going to abandon the park,” Flippo said.
Other park employees will be furloughed until further notice.
Story filed under: Top Stories