With Congress in a stalemate over the budget, a federal government shutdown could begin tonight that would close national parks, including popular tourist attractions in the Bay Area such as Alcatraz Island and Muir Woods, a parks spokeswoman said.
The deadline for Congress to pass a budget is midnight eastern time, and if no agreement is reached by then, many government operations will grind to a halt.
All destinations in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, as well as Fort Point and Muir Woods, would be closed to visitors, National Park Service spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet said.
“We still don’t know if there will be a government shutdown,” Picavet said. “We will find out at the same time as the public.”
The Bay Area’s national parks draw about 17 million visitors per year, she said. If there is no deal reached, the gates will be shut.
“All facilities staffed by government employees would be closed,” Picavet said. “We have no choice.”
She said the government employees would not be paid during a shutdown, but some park rangers and other employees in charge of public safety would still be required to work.
Picavet said that in the event of a shutdown, people who purchased Alcatraz cruises — which often sell out weeks in advance — would be given a refund or the option to reschedule their visits.
Gates would be closed at Muir Woods, Fort Point, Fort Funston and Lands End, but other, wide-open sites like Crissy Field have no such option, she said.
“We really hold out hope still that there would not be a government shutdown,” Picavet said. “This is a great inconvenience to the millions of people that visit national parks across the country.”
During past government shutdowns — the longest of which stretched for 21 days from 1995 into 1996 — there were delays in issuing Social Security, Medicare and veterans’ checks, and passport and visa applications could not be processed, according to federal officials.
Postal service continued to operate during the previous shutdowns, federal officials said.
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