ESTES PARK, Colo. — Hundreds of confused visitors were forced to turn around after arriving at Rocky Mountain National Park Sunday. Roads into the park were blocked off despite the National Park Service previously stating that the roads would remain open during the government shutdown, weather permitting.
No explanation was provided for those hoping to enter the park Sunday; they were simply greeted by a row of orange traffic cones.
While officials said earlier that the park’s roads would remain open if weather allowed, they said the roads would not be plowed and visitor centers would be closed during the shutdown. However, with blue skies Sunday morning, many people figured it was a safe time to visit the park.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Joe Kujawski, who traveled from the Denver area. “This is an open-air park. This is not a museum.”
Kujawski says he checked the NPS website before driving up to Estes Park and saw nothing about the park being closed.
“More appropriate than this would be a sign that says, ‘Enter at your own risk. There’s no staffing. If you get stuck in the snow, there’s a fee.’ That would be far more appropriate than outright shutting down one of America’s great public lands,” he said.
Some, like Jose Montalvo, drove hundreds of miles only to have to turn around.
“I saw the government shutdown may have something to do with it, but it said the roads would be open, so I assumed I wouldn’t have any issues getting in here,” said Montalvo, who is from Texas.
“This should not be shut down for Trump’s border wall. In the middle of Colorado, hiking should not be shut down for the border wall,” said Tina Lucido, of Denver.
On Friday evening, an NPS spokesperson responded to FOX31 and Channel 2’s request for a comment. In an email, they said the park remains open. However, entrances to the park were closed due to road conditions. The spokesperson said the main entrance gates were closed Saturday night past Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and near the Fall River Entrance. The gate near the Grand Lake Entrance on the park’s west side was closed Saturday morning due to road conditions, the spokesperson said.
FOX31 and Channel 2 observed sunny weather and clear roads at the Beaver Meadows entrance Sunday morning. However, due to the road closure, we were unable to note conditions past the visitor center.
“We had to close the roads for safety reasons. All of these roads are above 8,000 feet in elevation. Due to the upcoming weather forecast for higher elevations, it is uncertain whether these roads will reopen until after the shutdown. People can still access those parts of the park on foot,” the spokesperson said.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with information including a response from an NPS spokesperson. An earlier version of this story said the park was closed. While the roads into the park are closed, the park technically remains open.