Pinnacles rangers return to mess

Pinnacles National Park

Park rangers returned to Pinnacles National Park this week to tackle repairs and maintenance to both manmade and natural features along the spectacular vistas left unattended during the 35-day federal government “shutdown.”

The park, located in southwest San Benito County, had weathered a couple of severe winter storms, and had remained open to hikers and campers despite the absence of rangers and the presence of vehicle barricades.

Rangers and hikers this week reported that the Balconies Cave continued to be closed to visitors due to a recent rock fall, and the area remains unstable and dangerous for visitors. Rangers reported that trees had fallen across some of the trails in the 26,600-acre park.

Both east and west gates were reopened Jan. 28, with vehicles encountering some obstacles on the west side, rangers said.

“With the enactment of the continuing resolution, staff at Pinnacles National Park will resume regular operations on Monday, Jan. 28,” the park reported on its Facebook page last weekend.

“After 35 days of closure, time is needed to clear roadways from rockslide, clear downed trees, open restrooms and other facilities, check fire alarm systems and ensure that the park is safe for visitors.”

On social media, park visitors this week reported a downed tree on High Peaks trail, overgrown ferns at Moses Spring and some overflowing rubbish at several locations, including Scout Peak.

“Thank you for all you do,” “Thank you for ensuring the safety of our visitors,” .and “Thank you for all your hard work—you are greatly appreciated,” were some of the comments posted by visitors.

One hiker, who called herself Yoshimi Yosemite, told park staff, “I know you had to post this without being paid. I know some of you are working without pay behind the scenes to manage things. I appreciate all that you are doing and enduring for the public good.”

During the lapse in federal appropriations, Pinnacles National Park remained accessible to visitors; however, services were reduced as most staffers were furloughed.

“Please be reminded that due to environmental, public safety or other unknown factors, visitor services may be diminished or additional areas may be closed,” the park had warned the public in early January.

“We will not be able to update roads and weather information. It is important that visitors obey posted signs and park regulations. Fire danger remains high. Smoking is prohibited on trails. Visitors should park in designated spots only and avoid parking off road, as hot vehicle undercarriages could ignite dry grass.”

The western entrance was closed throughout the shutdown, and the eastern entrance was open only to visitors with confirmed reservations at the Pinnacles Campground.

Restrooms located in the campground, portable toilets at Peaks View and Old Pinnacles and pit toilets at Scout Peak and North Chalone Peak were open, but not maintained. All others were closed.

Because restroom facilities were limited, visitors were encouraged to pack in and pack out all trash, as custodial services were not available.

Entrance stations were not staffed, visitor centers and ranger-guided programs were canceled.

Although Pinnacles campground and the Campground Store were open.

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