The United States government has been shut down since Friday, and while a recent Senate vote has passed to reopen the government, at the time of this writing more action is required (most notably from the House of Representatives) before the federal government reopens for business.
We often think of National Parks closing for business during a federal government shutdown as one of the most visible and outdoor-related ways that a shutdown can affect trails. Case in point: back in October, 2013, when the last shutdown occurred, Corey and I were in Moab, Utah reporting on Outerbike for Singletracks. During our downtime, we wanted to go hike to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park but were turned around at the gate… thanks to the shutdown.
While there aren’t many mountain bike legal trails located in National Parks, there are a few key examples–and those are likely inaccessible at this point in time. However, the current shutdown is having much farther reaching consequences in the mountain bike community than we first thought. Just this morning, SORBA-CSRA posted on Facebook informing riders that the popular FATS Trail System in South Carolina, along with the Lick Fork Trail System, are currently closed due to the federal government shutdown.
We’ve reached out to SORBA-CSRA for more information but as of press time, they have not responded. However, I did look into the Forest Service’s latest guidelines for a government shutdown (revised July 2017), which can be found here.
Based on a brief skim of the document, here are the most pertinent sections that likely prompted the shutdown at FATS:
Any operation requiring the presence of a Forest Service employee will be suspended
And even more specifically:
Forest Service Operated Campgrounds and Other Developed Recreation Sites that Require Forest Service Maintenance:
All will be operationally shut down and posted accordingly, with gates locked where they exist, restrooms locked, and water systems shut down. Consistent with other Federal recreation providers, visitors in occupied sites would be given 48 hours to vacate, with the area shut down as the last visitor leaves, not to exceed 48 hours. First day shutdown activities would include completing the shutdown of these sites. Campground hosts would be given the same 48-hour option, but should not expect any reimbursement for this period.
This is a far-reaching requirement, meaning that we can expect many other mountain bike trail systems across the country to be shut down at this point in time, three days into the federal government’s shutdown. During the 2013 shutdown, we received reports that the Tsali and Jackrabbit Trails in North Carolina had closed, and Roaring Run, Cascades, and Pandapas Pond in Virginia had closed. Not only that, but campgrounds across the nation have likely emptied out due to these requirements.
Is your local trail system closed due to the federal shutdown? Let us know in the comments section below!