UPDATE — Hurricane Ridge Road reopens as Olympic National Park comes back to life as federal shutdown ends

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OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — Driveway barriers were removed and the visitor center south of Port Angeles opened a half-hour early this morning as Olympic National Park reopened in the wake of Congress' eleventh-hour legislation last night ending the partial government shutdown.

Hurricane Ridge Road was reopened at 10 a.m. today.

Here is Olympic National Park's news release issued this morning:

With relief and enthusiasm, Olympic National Park staff is returning to work this morning and reopening the park to visitors. All park roads, trails and facilities normally scheduled to be open at this time of year are being reopened as quickly as possible; all will be open by 4 p.m. today.

“We are proud of the work we do on behalf of the American people, and we're thrilled to be able to get back to work and reopen the park,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. “We welcome our visitors and invite them to come enjoy the beautiful fall colors and crisp weather.”

Staff is currently working to reopen all park roads and facilities, in accordance with the park's routine seasonal schedule.

Olympic National Park Visitor Center is open and is open 9 a.m.–4 p.m. daily.

Crews are currently working to clear snow from the Hurricane Ridge Road, where sizable drifts have accumulated at some of the higher elevations. The road will reopen as soon as safely possible. The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and Snack Bar will also reopen as soon as possible. [A park spokesperson later said Hurricane Ridge Road reopened at 10 a.m.]

Crews are working this morning to remove barricades and reopen parking areas along the Kalaloch coastal area. All areas are expected to be open by 4 p.m. today.

The Deer Park and Obstruction Point roads are both closed for the season.

The Lake Crescent Lodge is opening today. Log Cabin Resort and the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort are closed for the season. The Kalaloch Lodge is already open.

The Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center and the Forks Recreation Information Center are open Friday through Sunday in October. Staircase, Elwha, Lake Crescent, Hoh, Mora, Ozette, Queets, Quinault areas will all open today.

Earlier report:

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — A congressional vote and approval by President Barack Obama to end — at least temporarily— the federal government's partial shutdown and debt crisis should allow Olympic National Park to reopen within 24 hours.

“We would get the park open again as quickly as possible, understanding that we have employees laid off for two weeks who might have left the area,” park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said Wednesday afternoon.

“If we don't run into any issues, then we would be fully open within 24 hours,” she said.

Senate leaders on Wednesday announced a deal that would end the shutdown and would avoid a default by raising the nation's $16.7 trillion debt limit.

The Senate was expected to vote on the agreement early Wednesday evening, followed by the House a few hours later.

“The message that we are sending out to our employees is to keep an eye on the news,” Maynes said.

The park's 134 employee-workforce was reduced to a bare-bones, ranger-heavy crew of 31 that has shrunk even more since the partial shutdown took effect Oct. 1, Maynes said.

If a budget deal was reached Wednesday night, the National Park Service site, www.nps.gov, should be up and running by this morning, said Maynes, who participated in a lengthy conference call Wednesday afternoon with officials from the National Park Service's Pacific-West regional office that covers national parks and other Interior properties in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Hawaii, Guam and Samoa.

Once the House and Senate finish voting, the park will receive official word to reopen, then it will contact park employees, Maynes said.

The most popular areas of Olympic National Park will reopen first, Maynes said.

That could include Hurricane Ridge Road.

There did not appear to be snow at Hurricane Ridge on Wednesday afternoon, and Maynes did not know the condition of the road to the summit.

The road hasn't been maintained since the shutdown.

Lake Crescent Lodge, which lies within the park, will reopen as soon as possible after the park reopens, said a spokesman for lodge concessionaire Aramark Corp.

Aramark spokesman Dave Freireich said Lake Crescent Lodge will shut down for the season Jan. 1 instead of late October.

The company's Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, also inside the park, closed last weekend as scheduled for the season.

People who enter the park before it reopens could still be issued a $125 “violation of closure” citation.

That's what happened to Port Angeles sixth-grade teacher Kelly Sanders and Sequim resident Leanne Potts when Potts, Sanders and several students pulled into the Barnes Point lot at Lake Crescent, near Lake Crescent Lodge, last weekend.

They were among the citations issued in the park during the past 16 days, which as of Wednesday, totalled seven, Maynes said.

Rangers made thousands of contacts over the past two weeks with people who were illegally in the park but did not ticket them, Maynes added.

When Lake Crescent Lodge was given notice that the park was closing, 44 of 55 overnight rooms were occupied, in many instances by international travelers.

The lodge's 80 employees also were laid off.

“We are prepared to resume operations as soon as the [National] Park Service allows us to do that,” Freireich said.

“Our staff is ready, and we are anxious to return to work and serve our guests.”

Freireich would not comment on the impact the closure has had on Aramark.

Also poised to reopen once Congress and the White House act is Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge north of Sequim.

Since the shutdown, the refuge — which serves as the gateway trail to the Dungeness Spit — has left the Dungeness Lighthouse on the lengthy spit as an “island” accessible only by boat.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: October 17. 2013 10:10AM
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