Point Reyes National Seashore reopens, staff returns after federal government shutdown ends
POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE — The listless malaise common to many workplaces on Monday mornings was nowhere apparent among national park staffers, as workers returned from a 35-day layoff imposed on them by a political showdown 3,000 miles away.
Their email in-boxes were brimming and the awaiting work load unmeasured, given 150 miles of back-country trails still to patrol for downed trees and other damage from recent winter storms.
But everywhere, people were clearly glad to be in uniform and back on the job after a long, uncertain and stressful wait.
A Monday morning meeting of about 80 personnel just to check in and mark the occasion was more like a high school reunion than anything else, Point Reyes National Seashore spokesman John Dell’Osso said.
Wildlife ecologist Dave Press said everyone was glad to see one another and find out how they had passed the month away from work.
“It was very uplifting,” said Dell’Osso, a 36-year employee of the seashore. “It was great to see everybody.”
The public was allowed during the federal shutdown to use trails and roads on the 71,000-acre seashore, a year-round attraction to locals and tourists alike.
But without employees, park facilities — like restrooms or visitors centers — weren’t operating or maintained as usual, and visitorship has been relatively light.
The partial federal government shutdown begun Dec. 22 ended on Friday, however, thanks to a deal between the Trump administration and congressional Democrats. The seashore started to bring back staff beginning Sunday.
Sebastopol resident Teresita Haag was among those who waited for the seashore to reopen in full before making her annual pilgrimage to view the northern elephant seal pups at Chimney Rock and Lifeboat Station on Monday.
“Every January I like to come out and see them,” said Haag, 74. “I love this park.”
Three longtime friends and first-time visitors to the seashore from Oregon and New York said they were just lucky to hit the timing right during a stay in nearby Mill Valley. They were delighted to see such a beautiful landscape on such a lovely day — especially, said Andrea Terwilleger, 78, of Lake Placid, knowing there were 2 feet of snow on her roof at home.
“We’re glad to see the poor people back to work,” said Terwilleger, who was picnicking with friends Anne and Bruce Erts, of Portland. “That’s for damn sure.”
Dell’Osso said the seashore limped along more successfully than it might have during the shutdown thanks in large part to an outpouring of community support. There was no official park trash collection, and only a small number of law enforcement rangers were working.
But a Novato debris and junk-removal company called Green Hauling stepped in a few weeks into the shutdown to empty dumpsters and trash cans from trailheads, beaches and parking areas, disposing of it at their own cost, Dell’Osso said. Park visitors also brought in trash bags to remove trash as some of the garbage cans filled up, he said.
The Marin County Parks department, which already was serving nearby county parks, also took on responsibility for the Bear Valley restroom, making it the only functioning restroom with flush toilets and running water in the park.