South Florida Parks Losing Thousands Daily in Government Shutdown

Thousands of dollars a day in fees are being lost at South Florida's national parks due to the federal government shutdown, the National Park Service said.

Everglades National Park, which gets an average of 2,723 visitors per day in October, stands to lose about $2,435 in entrance fees each day of the shutdown, park service officials said in a statement. About $612 in other daily fees is also being lost.

The government shutdown, which began last week, has furloughed more than 230 Everglades National Park employees. The park is one of 11 in the state of Florida that was shut down, though state-run parks remain open.

"There are families that have two employees that work for the Park Service," Ranger Linda Friar said last week, as the park was closing. "I know that's going to be really tough for some of them, and it's going to be a challenging time. We really are hoping it's not extended."

Dry Tortugas National Park, which sits about 70 miles west of Key West, averages about 107 daily visitors in October and will lose about $1,500 per day in entrance and concession fees, officials said.

Officials say visitors to both parks spend tens of millions of dollars in surrounding communities each year.

Biscayne National Park, which is mostly covered by water, was also shut down last week. Fishing guides were notified that the 281-square-mile park would be closed until further notice.

Dave Fowler, who heads the park's Key Largo ranger station, said rangers will enforce the closure but will focus on educating violators about the situation. He said that during the last government shutdown in 1995, rangers in the Key Largo district didn't write a single ticket for violating the closure.

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Copyright AP - Associated Press
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