Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area Reopens Following Govt. Shutdown

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Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

With the end of the of the U.S. federal government shutdown and federal employees allowed to return back to work, the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area and other National Parks reopened Thursday.

“We are very excited to welcome people back to their national park lands in the Santa Monica Mountains,” said Superintendent David Szymanski. “We hope people get outside this weekend and have a wonderful time in their parks.”

The Cheeseboro and Palo Comado Canyons, Rancho Sierra Vista, the Santa Monica Mountains Interagency Visitor Center, Paramount Ranch and Circle X Ranch were among the reopened areas. Nine local federally owned parks had been closed while the federal government was shut down Oct. 1-16. 

According to Razsa Cruz, who has been a SMMRA park ranger for five years, park workers hit the ground running on the first day of reopening by giving tours to students on fieldtrips. 

“We had over 120 schoolchildren at the visitor center throughout the day,” Cruz said. “We also received over 40 to 50 phone calls asking if we were open.” 

Last Thursday, 83 local workers who were furloughed during the shutdown spent the day getting caught up with what they had left behind, said local NPS spokesperson Kate Kuykendall. 

“Lot’s of rescheduling meetings, that’s for sure,” Kuykendall said. 

Workers checked up on plants at a NPS native plant nursery, wildlife biologists sought to find mountain lions they had been tracking and workers sorted through 17 days of unchecked emails, she added. 

The closure primarily affected events at NPS-owned Paramount Ranch, Kuykendall said. Two scheduled weddings had to be rescheduled or relocated, a footrace with about a thousand runners was moved to Malibu Creek State Park and two film shoots were rescheduled. 

The local parks did not lose revenue during the closure because they do not charge for parking, Kuykendall said. 

However, park officials became upset when locks on gates at two National Park sites near Malibu were cut during a Red Flag Warning, and “closed” signs taken down. The vandalism created a safety problem because it made it appear the parks were open, Kuykendall said. 

“People parked and went in, sometimes deep into canyons,” she said. “It would have been really hard to evacuate them.” 

Members of the public also said they noticed the closure. 

Voltaire Lebron, a retired U.S. Navy employee, said Thursday he was visiting the park to follow up on an upcoming hike. 

“Space is limited on an upcoming hike in January and I wanted to make sure they received my application,” Lebron said. 

According to Lebron, the application period for the Backbone Trail Hike began October 1st, the date the government shutdown began. With the orientation for the extensive hike approaching, he was happy to hear the parks reopened and he was in the system. 

“Fiscal reasons aside, of course I don’t think the parks should have been closed,” Lebron said. “The Santa Monica Mountains are spectacular; I think the area is a great resource and it’s great for the community.”