How Will the Shutdown Affect Regional Trails?

NPS' Capital Crescent Trail Improvements

This may or may not be open now or later today. Photo by Greg Billing.

Last night, we sent an action alert email to our members and supporters warning them that regional trails may be closed as a result of the shutdown, which you can read here:
WABA has learned that if the federal government shuts down tomorrow, the National Park Service intends to close many of its properties, including regional trails, to the public.  We have been provided very little detail, but we have seen preparations for closure on the Capital Crescent Trail.  All or part of the heavily-commuted Rock Creek Trail, Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, and George Washington Memorial Trail are on NPS property.  While we cannot provide additional information on the impacts to these trails because NPS has not been in contact with us, please be prepared for the possibility of closures in the event of a federal government shutdown. We will continue to seek additional information and provide updates as available at and through social media.
As of this morning, we have received no official update from the National Park Service about closures. We’ll continue to update this post with information about trail closures as we receive them from our staffers and from the NPS. On Twitter, we’re retweeting reports of trail closures from users. If you use Twitter and notice a closure, let us know. If you don’t, you can still follow along. — UPDATE 8:54 p.m.: Bike ambassador Pete reports, “Hains Point bathrooms are closed and locked and the water is shut off.  The golf course parking lot has been turned into a parking lot for all the furloughed park vehicles” and “Meridian Park at 16th and Euclid is closed entirely.  All the entrances are blocked.” UPDATE 4:26 p.m.: Washington City Paper has a list of roads closed by the National Park Service around Rock Creek Park, including Beach, Sherrill, Bingham, Ross, Morrow, and Glover drives. UPDATE 2:40 p.m.: East Bank DC has photos of a closed Anacostia Park. UPDATE: 2:27 p.m.: The C&O Canal Trust sends this email, which you can see on its website here:
As you may be aware, our Federal Government has shut down for an indeterminate amount of time. What you may not have realized, however, is that the closure of the Federal Government means the closure of the C&O Canal National Historical Park and all other National Parks. For the C&O Canal, this means:
  • Visitor traffic, whether on foot, bike, or horse, is strictly prohibited.
  • Bicyclists planning rides from Pittsburgh to DC on the GAP and C&O Canal should plan to turn back at Cumberland.
  • All Visitors Centers are CLOSED.
  • Hiker/Bikers and campgrounds are CLOSED.
  • The Canal Quarters lockhouses are CLOSED.
  • All restroom facilities, both permanent and portable, are CLOSED.
  • Handles have been removed from all well pumps.
  • The only Park staff that will be on duty will be law enforcement rangers.
  • The portion of the Capital Crescent Trail that runs parallel to the towpath in DC is managed by the C&O Canal NHP and is CLOSED.
  • All access roads to the Park are CLOSED. This means you will not be able to trailer boats to boat ramps along the towpath.
  • Interpretive and educational programming in the Park will be temporarily suspended. School field trips to the Park will need to be rescheduled once Park staff has returned.
  • Volunteer events and events requiring special use permits will not be able to take place.
  • All volunteers working in an official capacity should cease volunteer activities immediately and not enter the Park’s premises.
After working side-by-side with the wonderful staff of the C&O Canal NHP for many years, it’s heartbreaking for the Trust to see them closing the doors, given no choice but to turn away thousands upon thousands of visitors seeking to recreate and rejuvenate along the canal’s towpath. While the Park staff has no choice but to stand idly by, we as civilians can take action:
  • Educate yourself and others on how the shutdown affects National Parks.
  • Be vocal on social media and use #KeepParksOpen.
  • Use any means of communication you can – letter, email, phone call, social media, or even a carrier pigeon – to appeal to Congress.Find your US Representatives and Senators on the National Park’s Conservation Association’s Legislative Lookup.
  • Send notes of encouragement to the Park staff through our FacebookTwitter, andemail. To say this is a rough time for them is an understatement. We’ll forward your notes on and post them on social media, letting our Park Rangers know how much we appreciate them and are anxiously awaiting their return.
  • Last but certainly not least, respect the closure. While we don’t like it one bit, we have to respect it. Disregarding the closure can create potentially unsafe and hazardous situations, damage Park resources, and create undue work and stress on the few staff left standing.
UPDATE 1:15 p.m.: Streetsblog notes that Beach Drive is closed to cars. UPDATE 10 a.m.: WAMU reporter Martin Austermuhle tweets, “More government shutdown closures: Hains Point. So if you ride/run down there, you’re going to have to do so illegally” and that “According to NPS, Rock Creek Pkwy, Joyce Rd. and Wise Rd. will stay open. Beach Drive, though, will close to cars today.” WABA still has not received an update from NPS. UPDATE 9:32 a.m.: Commenter Bilsko writes, “At about 8:30AM,   I rode the stretch of the CCT trail from the Foundry Branch Park tunnel down into Georgetown with no sign of enforcement of closure – there were plenty of cyclists heading in both directions on the trail. There was also someone (NPP, perhaps) doing something with the lock mechanism on the gate, but I didn’t have a chance to stop and find out what.” UPDATE 9:03 a.m.: Our bike ambassador Pete Beers writes: “The only trail closure on the west side of town is the C&O Towpath.  The tough part is that the Cap Crescent Trail connects to C&O at the edge of Montgomery County… so it is closed before getting to Georgetown. People are ignoring the barriers. My friend Ricky took that. I shared it on my Facebook wall. Other stuff seems to be open. I haven’t heard about stuff coming in from Tacoma Park or Rock Creek Park yet.”