October 21, 2013

Public allowed back on lands as federal government shutdown ends

Needles Desert Star
News West

NEEDLES — Residents of Golden Shores awoke to the sound of gunfire on Friday. Cause for the gravest concern in many parts of the world, in the community on the shore of Topock Marsh it was a sign of reassurance: the partial federal government shutdown ended and access was being allowed to the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge in time for the Oct. 18 waterfowl opener.

Barrycades across the entrances to Catfish Paradise and North Dike have been taken down, though there were still cones across the road to Five Mile Landing. The road to North Dike was in very poor condition and should likely only be attempted with 4-wheel-drive, especially by those towing a boat. Vehicles without substantial ground clearance shouldn’t attempt it at all. Deep, soft sand washed onto the road in the violent thunderstorms of late August and early September had not been removed.

The traditional Pintail Slough hunt is not being offered this year, due to an irrigation pump failure before the shutdown. Visit refuge headquarters at 317 Mesquite Ave. in Needles for specific details.

Mojave National Preserve also reopened to visitors Friday, according to the National Park Service. Visitors can access public areas and roads immediately while facilities and other public services are brought back online.

“We are excited and happy to be back at work and welcome visitors to Mojave National Preserve,” said Deputy Superintendent Larry Whalon in a prepared statement. “With cooler temperatures, autumn is a particularly special season to enjoy all that Mojave has to offer.”

Rangers have removed barrycades and all roads and campgrounds are again open for hunters and other visitors. For updates on road conditions check nps.gov/moja and click on Current Conditions. The historic Kelso Depot Visitor Center returns to the same post-sequester schedule it’s been on since May: Fridays through Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Needles Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management is back in service; information about many area public lands under federal control, including the preserve, can be accessed there. Free and reduced-fee passes for federal lands can be obtained. Visit the office from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at 1303 U.S. Highway 95. Call 760-326-7000.

Further afield, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area including Lake Mohave is once again open. Campgrounds, trails, launch ramps and the visitor center were to open immediately, concessionaires were reported to have recalled employees and reopened marinas, Lake Mead Cruises and Black Canyon/Willow Beach Adventures were to resume cruises and raft tours over the weekend. Visit http://www.nps.gov/lake/; call the visitor center seven days a week at 702-293-8990 or the park information desk Monday through Friday at 702-293-8906.

Death Valley National Park announced reopening of most facilities on Oct. 17. “The economic impact of closing this park for 16 days has been extremely tough on our gateway communities, local businesses, neighbors, and park partners,” said Superintendent Kathy Billings, also in a prepared statement. “We look forward to working with our neighbors and partners on ways to lesson that impact.”

Visitor facilities that have reopened include Furnace Creek Visitor Center, Texas Springs Campground, Mesquite Springs Campground, Stovepipe Wells Village, Scotty’s Castle, the park’s major scenic overlooks, backcountry and wilderness.

Due to the shutdown the opening of Furnace Creek Campground and Sunset Campground was to be delayed. Sunset was to have opened Monday; it’s hoped that Furnace Creek Campground will open by Friday, Oct. 25. Check www.nps.gov/deva.

All other public lands under federal control were expected to be open and rapidly returning to normal operations. Facilities at the Grand Canyon had been reopened by the state of Arizona before the shutdown ended.