Assateague’s Fed Side Remains Accessible But Without Visitor Services

Assateague’s Fed Side Remains Accessible But Without Visitor Services
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ASSATEAGUE — The natural beauty and winter solitude can still be enjoyed at Assateague Island National Seahsore during the current federal government shutdown, but there are little or no services available on the barrier island.

National Park Service (NPS) officials announced last weekend that during the shutdown of the federal government due to the lapse of appropriations, national parks including Assateague will remain as accessible as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures. Park roads, boardwalks, trails, beach access and the Over-Sand Vehicle Route (OSV) at AINS will remain accessible to visitors, but services have been curtailed.

There will be no NPS-provided visitor services at Assateague Island National Seashore including public information, restrooms, trash collection or facilities and roads maintenance. Because of the federal government shutdown, NPS websites and social media platforms are not being monitored or updated, so the information on the sites may not be accurate and up to date.

The NPS will not be providing services for NPS-operated campgrounds including maintenance, janitorial, bathrooms, check-in or check-out services or reservations. However, visitors in NPS-operated campgrounds will not be asked to leave unless safety concerns arise.

“… National parks will remain as accessible as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures,” the NPS statement reads. “Park roads, beaches, trails and the Over-Sand Vehicle zone at Assateague Island National Seashore will remain accessible to visitors, but emergency and rescue services will be limited.”

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While it is December and the slowest time of the year, many enjoy the winter solitude at Assateague and they will be allowed to continue to do so, but visitors will notice some obvious consequences due to the government stalemate.

“There will be no NPS-provided visitor services as Assateague Island National Seashore, including public information at park visitor centers, restrooms, trash collection and facilities and roads maintenance,” the statement reads. “Because of the federal government shutdown, the NPS will not be providing services for NPS-operated campgrounds …”

While there are no services being provided on the federal side of Assateague Island, the Assateague Coastal Trust’s annual Ilia Fehrer-Judy Johnson Memorial Beach Walk scheduled for New Year’s Day next week is expected to go on as planned. ACT Communication Director Billy Weiland said this week while the shutdown will not likely be resolved before next week’s annual First Walk, the route could be amended to accommodate the event.

“As for the New Year’s Day hike, I don’t foresee the government shutdown righting itself in time, but we will certainly still be able to have the walk,” he said. “Depending on the weather and turnout, I may walk folks along the southern portion of the state park behind the state park campgrounds. In years’ past, I believe the walk has moved from the state park beach access northward, which only extends about three-quarters of a mile before crossing into the federally-owned portion. By taking the walk south, we’ll have a bit more beach to cover for people.”

The first Assateague Beach Walk was held on Jan. 1, 1970. The newly formed Committee to Preserve Assateague Island hosted the inaugural event to draw attention to Assateague’s wild beauty. The Committee to Preserve Assateague Island was created by Ilia Fehrer, Judy Johnson and a few friends who had organized to rally against early plans for an Assateague development.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.