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Crosscurrents logo 2021

Closed means closed: SF's national parks shut down

Casey Miner

For a lot of people trying to go to Alcatraz today, the cancelations were just an inconvenience. Sure, they’d come from far away or were leaving town soon, but it was a beautiful day and they said they’d find something else to do. But this isn’t true for Linda Plourde.

“We’ve come from Maine and Connecticut. We’re on a  week’s vacation. We bought tickets two weeks ago,” she says, after being told by a cruise company worker that the boats weren’t running.

“We’re never coming back,” Plourde says. Her eyes tear up. “My brother-in-law has brain cancer. This was his trip to come out here, this was his wish to come out here, part of it was to go to Alcatraz. I don’t know if he’ll be here next year.”

Plourde is mostly angry with the federal government – not the cruise line. Other visitors also blamed the shutdown. Denise Rasmussen, a cruise line spokesperson, says the company did everything it could to let people know what was going on, and offered refunds and alternative cruises around the bay.

“We did prepare to get info out to 5,000 people – that’s number of tickets that were booked for today,” she says. “We’re sending out the messaging now to people who have reservations in the future. The messaging is the biggest part.”

Messaging was the issue of the day, especially at the National Park Service headquarters in Fort Mason. National Parks Service spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet was spending today fielding media calls – and shutting down her office. Most NPS employees had just four hours today to do whatever was necessary to make sure no work takes place during the closure.

The park service is keeping on a skeleton crew – that will include Picavet, for media, as well as security patrols around the closed parks to make sure no one’s using them. Picavet said just covering all the terrain can be a challenge – especially at big sites like Ocean Beach.

“We’re still assessing, what do you do when you have 17 entrances to one beach? Do you sign each one or do you put it in one central area?” she says. “That’s the stuff we have to think through now.”

Picavet says she doesn’t know how long the shutdown will last – she’s getting her information from the news, just like everyone else. In the meantime, she suggested that people check out California’s state parks, like Mt. Tam and Angel Island.

And she said, if you’re thinking about going to a national park anyway – just don’t. For the foreseeable future, closed means closed.