Posted 5 months ago
By John Axtell
The National Park Service wasted no time getting back to work yesterday after President Obama signed the emergency spending and debt ceiling bill passed Wednesday night by Congress to end the government shutdown.
All NPS sites in this area were open and on regular winter hours yesterday, including Scotts Bluff, Agate Fossil Beds, and Jewel Cave National Monument and Badlands and Wind Cave National Parks.
Wind Cave Chief of Interpretation Tom Farrell says the 16-day shutdown had its biggest impact on the park in terms of revenue and delays to projects.
“This time last year, we took about 1,700 people through the cave and that was about $11,000 in receipts. It also pushed back a lot of park projects. We had a ferret survey scheduled for early October which had to be cancelled; we were planning to do our bison roundup in another week or so, and that’s been postponed to November at the very earliest.
Also delayed by the shutdown was the replacement of the revolving door at the cave’s natural entrance, its main entrance, to eliminate problems with moisture and small animals while uncovering the entrance built by CCC crews in the 1930s.
“We started construction right before the closure on an air lock (doorway). We don’t use that (entrance) in the winter, but come spring we’re going need it for school groups and because of this closure and this delay, there’s a potential it could impact visitation next spring. It’s going to take us a while to train back on the track after being gone for 16 days. ”
Although the Black Hills got hit hard by the blizzard earlier this month, Farrell says Wind Cave escaped any serious problems…thanks in part to the skeleton maintenance crew on duty during the shutdown.
“We had crews that were on duty blowing the roads, and the trees that took the primary hit were the ones that still had their leaves on them and we have so many Ponderosa pine here that it really didn’t impact the park much.”
Wind Cave Superintendent Vidal Davila says everyone at the park is excited and happy to be back at work, adding that this is a great time of year to visit…with those who come around dusk having a chance to hear bull elk bugling for mates.