Colorado sheriff says he’ll protect Rocky Mountain National Park

FORT COLLINS — A sheriff on the eastern end of Rocky Mountain National Park is encouraging people to visit the park even if a government shutdown closes it down.

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said Thursday that he’ll provide emergency services and law enforcement to visitors on the eastern side of the park within his county in the event of a shutdown. Smith said merchants in nearby Estes Park whose business would be hurt by a lack of visitors shouldn’t be pawns in Congress’ budgetary battle.

“The entrance stations may not be staffed to collect fees and hand out maps, but that shouldn’t stop visitors from being able to enjoy the park,” Smith said in a statement, later adding in an interview: “I’m encouraging people to come up to their park, absolutely.”

Park officials said Smith has no jurisdiction on federal property and in past instances where sheriff’s deputies have responded to emergencies there, they have done so under cooperative agreements and at the invitation of the park.

“If the federal government shuts down, the park will be closed. And closed means the public is not allowed inside. It’s as simple as that,” said Patrick O’Driscoll, a spokesman at the National Park Service’s regional office in suburban Denver. Limited staff including law enforcement personnel would remain at the park to “protect life, property, and provide emergency services.”


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