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Limited park services means it’s best to be prepared in outdoors

Updated December 26, 2018 - 3:43 pm

While members of Congress and President Donald Trump continue to battle over the federal budget, visitors to the country’s national parks and recreation areas can expect to find limited services and maybe some closures.

In Southern Nevada, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area “will remain as open as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures,” according to a Department of the Interior news release.

That means people still have access to roads, trails, campgrounds and launch ramps, but emergency and rescue services will be limited. Visitor services such as trash collection and janitorial care will not be provided, so please do us all a favor and make plans to take home anything you bring in.

People staying in campgrounds operated by the National Park Service won’t be asked to leave unless safety becomes an issue.

Since the hospitality and marina services within the Lake Mead NRA are provided by concessionaires, I checked each of their Facebook pages to see if they were reducing services. One post says, “During this Govt Shutdown, Callville Bay Marina will be open for business.” Another reads, “Willow Beach is open during the government shutdown.”

There were no such posts from the other marinas. None suggested that there were plans to close or reduce operations, but it would be a good idea to check on updates.

Since emergency services at the recreation area will be reduced by the federal government’s partial shutdown, recreation enthusiasts should provide a plan with a responsible adult before they leave home. This is always a good idea no matter how simple your outdoor plans are.

A trip plan doesn’t have to be complicated but at a minimum should include:

— Your start and return times, your destination and possible alternatives, a description of your vehicle;

— A complete list of everyone who will be accompanying you on your adventure with cellphone numbers and license plate details;

— And a description of any watercraft you might be using with boat registration numbers.

With that information, rescue teams will have a place to start looking should you fail to return by the specified time. That alone could significantly lessen the amount of time it takes to find you.

Without that information, a search is a lot like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. What might take a couple of hours with the right information could take days or even weeks without it. In some cases, it could mean the difference between rescue and death.

Regardless of the season, the Mojave Desert is an unforgiving environment and shouldn’t be underestimated. When the unexpected does happen, it can make quick work of the unprepared.

Along with leaving your detailed trip plan with a responsible adult, it’s always a good idea to take extra food and water in case your trip is extended without warning. Even on a day trip. Be sure to bring extra clothing layers along with blankets or a sleeping bag. These can be a life saver on a cold winter night and provide shade in the warmer months.

Be sure to bring your cellphone, but don’t count on it working. Cell coverage is much better than it was a few years ago, but as good as it is, there are still places where you cannot access a cell tower. And not all cellular services have the same level of coverage.

An old-fashioned but still viable alternative to the cellphone is the marine band radio. Channels 16 and 9 are monitored 24 hours a day in areas where the U.S. Coast Guard has jurisdiction. At the Lake Mead NRA, the Park Service dispatch center monitors Channel 16.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by NDOW. Any opinions are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.

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