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Many parks near Las Vegas remain open despite government shutdown

Despite staff limitations resulting from the partial government shutdown, many national parks and recreation areas in the region are expected to remain open at least through the weekend.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area: The scenic drive and visitor center will remain open during regular hours and will continue to offer programs this weekend, Southern Nevada Conservancy spokeswoman Leonie Mowat said Thursday. The Department of the Interior on Sunday permitted the Conservancy to reopen the fee booth, visitor center and retail store.

Because Opportunity Village maintains the restrooms at Red Rock Canyon, the park did not have sanitary issues related to bathroom availability, Mowat said.

Mount Charleston and Spring Mountains National Recreation Area: Both will remain open, except for the Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway, trailhead restrooms and most fee areas such picnic spaces and campgrounds, Mowat said.

The Old Mill and Foxtail picnic areas will be open, because they are managed by the Lee Canyon ski area, Mowat wrote in an email.

Go Mt. Charleston, a volunteer organization managed by the Conservancy, has organized three meetups this weekend for volunteers to help pick up litter in the park’s busiest areas. The group will meet from 9 a.m. to noon Friday at the Fletcher Canyon Trailhead, the same time Saturday at the Upper Lee Meadows and Sunday at the Fletcher Canyon Trailhead. Volunteers will be given a trash bag, gloves and litter pickers “and are welcome to work at their own pace,” the group wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area: The gates, trailheads, concessions and restaurants will remain open this weekend, park spokeswoman Christie Vanover said Thursday.

Law enforcement officials are still policing the park, but maintenance staff is very limited, Vanover added. She asked visitors who come upon a full trash can to consider looking for another one or to carry their trash out with them.

The government shutdown has prompted biologists at Lake Mead to cancel their annual eagle survey, in which researchers and volunteers from several federal and state agencies fan out in boats to count the bald eagles and other birds that visit the lake in winter. The survey was scheduled for Jan. 15.

Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area: Trails are open, according to Friends of Sloan Canyon, a volunteer group that partners with the Bureau of Land Management.

Many of the group’s activities are suspended as long as the BLM is not overseeing the park, but many volunteers have been monitoring trails and picking up trash, group spokesman Jim Stanger said Thursday. They are especially watchful over the Petroglyph Canyon, where the visitor station is closed, and Hidden Valley trails.

Trails managed by the city of Henderson — McCullough Hills, Anthem Hills and Shadow Canyon — are not affected by the shutdown, Stanger said.

Joshua Tree National Park: The park staved off a closure that had been scheduled for Thursday morning after park officials discovered trees had been knocked over to make new pathways for cars.

“While the vast majority of those who visit Joshua Tree National Park do so in a responsible manner,” some motorists had created new roads and destroyed Joshua trees, precipitating the closure, the park announced Tuesday in a news release.

On Wednesday, the National Park Service announced that Joshua Tree had averted the closure by using revenue from recreation fees. The park service planned to bring back maintenance crews to address sanitation issues, reopen all campgrounds and previously closed trails and bring on additional staff to “mitigate some of the damage that has occurred during the lapse of appropriations.”

Mowat recommended visitors to the popular snow play areas bring a trash bag to carry out their garbage and plan for limited access to bathrooms.

Death Valley National Park: Most campgrounds and restrooms in the park are closed. However, privately operated campgrounds, hotels, gas stations and restaurants will remain open, park spokeswoman Abby Wines said Thursday. The visitor center will operate as usual thanks to a donation from the Death Valley Natural History Association, and all major roads and most parking lots are open for hiking.

Closed areas at the park include Dante’s View, Artist’s Drive, Natural Bridge Canyon, Harmony Borax Works, Salt Creek, Scotty’s Castle, Mosaic Canyon and Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, according to Wines.

Grand Canyon National Park: Park roads, lookouts and trails will remain accessible to visitors, as they have since the start of the shutdown, according to the park’s website. Visitor services provided by park concessionaires and other entities will also remain open and operational, including lodging, restaurants, grocery stores, retail stores, vendor-provided tours and park shuttle operations. Visitor centers staffed by the park service will be closed, and ranger-led tours are canceled, the park said in December.

Great Basin National Park: The Great Basin and Lehman Caves visitor centers, Lehman Caves and Strawberry Creek Road are closed, according to the park service website. Trails and some roads in the park remain open.

Zion National Park: The Canyon Scenic Drive is open to vehicles but may be temporarily closed if parking capacity is exceeded or if weather jeopardizes safety, the park wrote Saturday on its Facebook page. Shuttle buses will not be running, and Kolob Canyons remains closed.

The Zion Canyon Visitor Center, Watchman Campground and adjacent restrooms will be open through Saturday thanks to a donation from the state of Utah, the Zion National Park Forever Project, Washington County and city of St. George.

Park staffing will be minimal, the Facebook post said. The park reminded visitors to follow park rules, notify visitor center staff of any issues with bathrooms, carry their trash out with them, stay on designated trails and be mindful of slippery conditions and cliffs, park in designated lots and pullouts and refrain from interacting with wildlife.

Bryce Canyon National Park: It was slated to remain open through Thursday thanks to a donation from the Bryce Canyon Natural History Association. It was unclear from the park’s website whether the park will be open Friday and beyond.

Contact Kimber Laux at klaux@reviewjournal.com. Follow @lauxkimber on Twitter.

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