Lake Mead National Recreation Area announced plans Monday to tap into its recreation fee revenue to restore “basic visitor services.”
Using Federal Land and Recreation Enhancement Act money generated by fees previously collected at the entrance gates, furloughed National Park Service maintenance crews are being brought back to clean restrooms and pick up trash within the popular 1.5 million-acre recreation area east of Las Vegas.
Roads, lookouts, trails and boat launch ramps at Lake Mead have remained open since the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history began more than 23 days ago.
Some lodging, dining and other services offered by private contractors have continued, but the visitor centers and fee stations are closed, and ranger programs and park-run special events have been canceled.
The redirected recreation money also allowed employees from the Southern Nevada Conservancy, formerly known as the Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association, to return to work at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area on Jan. 6, according to Executive Director Andy Hart.
The conservancy is a nonprofit organization that is contracted with several federal agencies to provide visitor and recreational services at five public lands sites in Nevada.
Red Rock is the largest site the conservancy manages, Hart said. The park visitor center and gift shop are open again. Trash and bathroom services have resumed.
“It’s these types of participation that allow us to provide the best possible visitor experiences,” Hart said.
The shutdown has resulted in overflowing trash cans and toilets at many of the nation’s national parks, but some sites also have experienced high-profile cases of vandalism. At Joshua Tree National Park in California, several of the park’s namesake plants were cut down by visitors who wanted to illegally drive into areas that are closed to vehicles.
Lake Mead is one of several park sites nationwide to tap into recreation fee revenue to restore some services, but the wisdom and even the legality of using that source of money have been questioned by some park advocates.
The latest information on accessibility and available services at Lake Mead can be found on the park’s website at nps.gov/lake.