Government Shutdown Forces Lake Mead to Close - 8 News NOW

Government Shutdown Forces Lake Mead to Close

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LAKE MEAD, Nev. -- Congress failed to pass a measure to continue funding the federal government by the midnight Monday deadline, which has forced a partial shut down of the government.

The shutdown has forced the closed sign to go up at all 401 national parks around the country, including Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The fifth most visited park in the country.

The park service has signs up to inform visitors that the visitor center, marinas, trails and launch ramps are all closed.

"I think this is crazy that we can't access our public land. It is a shame," Lake Mead visitor Judy Holt said. 

According to the park service, about 450,000 people usually visit Lake Mead in October. They bring about $17 million to the local economy just in that one month alone.

"I still pay my taxes. This is public land. This is for us to enjoy, and it is politics as usual," Holt said.

While the Lake Mead National Recreation Area is closed, it did not stop tourists from coming by the bus loads.

"We had a lot of calls asking if we are cruising. We basically say, 'yes today and call back tomorrow to see if we're cruising.'" Lisa Stephens with Lake Mead Cruises said.

Lake Mead Cruises operates seven days a week and takes more than 200 customers a day on a scenic route around the lake. Tuesday was no exception, but the thought of Lake Mead being closed is disheartening.

"We're all frustrated. This effects a lot of people. It effects our guests, employees, the whole park. It is huge," Stephens said.

Since the government shutdown happened last minute, park services allowed them to cruise Tuesday, but by Tuesday afternoon, the park service announced commercial use of the lake will end.

Christie Vanover with the Lake Mead National Recreation Area said about 170 employees have been furloughed. Now, the next step is getting people off public lands.

"Those who are in campgrounds, we will give them 48 hours so they have time to make accommodations some place else," Vanover said, which means they must be out by 3 p.m. Thursday.

While there are no barricades on the roads or in the water to keep people out, Vanover says the closure will be strictly enforced at least in the next 48 hours. Park roads, including Northshore Road and Lakeshore Drive, are closed.

"We don't want to ruin the visitor's experience. People travel here from all over and all though we are required to vacate the park, we're doing it in phases and strategy, so that we can give them a little bit of time," Vanover said.

The park service says that those with personal property in the park, like boats, trailers or cabins, can access the park to remove their vessels, or trailers or personal property. However, overnight stays are not allowed and boats cannot be used on the lake.

The closure also means educational and recreational events are canceled, including the Slam the Dam Open Water Swim, which was set for Saturday and the American Bass Association Fishing Tournament, which was set for Friday.

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