Shutdown leaves Rocky Mountain Nat’l Park roads unplowed, closed |

Shutdown leaves Rocky Mountain Nat’l Park roads unplowed, closed

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Alex DeBrincat is congratulated as he passes the team box after scoring a goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Dec. 21, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

ESTES PARK — Visitor centers at Rocky Mountain National Park were locked Saturday and roads were closed or unplowed because of the federal government shutdown.

But the U.S. military said the shutdown won’t affect NORAD Tracks Santa, its 63-year-tradition of answering phone calls from children on Christmas Eve asking where Santa Claus is at the moment. The operation is run from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

Rocky Mountain National Park’s gates were open, but staffing was cut back and roads were not being cleared of new snow.

Roads that were passable at the time of the shutdown would remain open unless conditions worsened, park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson said.

“This is really disappointing,” said Sarah Schlesinger of Boulder, who went to the park with two nieces from Florida who had never seen snow before.

“It’s time for a new administration,” she said.

Her nieces did get to go sledding, though.

Vasilis Vasileiou of Ioannina, Greece, was making his first trip to the U.S. West and was disappointed to find the visitors centers closed. But he said he

has encountered similar situations at home.

“This is not too frustrating for me because where I come from in Greece, we deal with strikes and shutdowns on an everyday basis,” he said. “Nothing significant has happened here, though, because we can still walk around outdoors.”

But he wished the visitor center was open so he and his travel companion could ask about what to see.

Rocky Mountain National Park is the fourth most popular national park in the country, drawing 4.4 million visitors in 2017. It lies 65 miles from downtown Denver.

Colorado’s three other national parks — Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes and Black Canyon of the Gunnison — said on their Facebook pages that some areas remained accessible but that could change without notice and no ranger services were available. Dinosaur National Monument in northwestern Colorado had the same message on its Facebook page.

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site was closed to protect park resources and visitors, said Rick Wallner, the site’s chief of interpretation.

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