Area residents share their thoughts on the partial government shutdown and the impact of resulting federal park closures
VANCOUVER — After living in Clark county for almost 25 years, Bryan Ramirez brought his daughter to Fort Vancouver for the first time last month.
On Wednesday, he ventured out to the fort’s front sign, hoping to further explore its exhibits, only to be greeted with a sign explaining that it is closed due to an ongoing government shutdown.
“It’s kinda sad, honestly,” Ramirez said, standing just outside the fort’s garden. “People are going to get in or out, regardless of if we build something. The thing I disagree on is, why make us, U.S. citizens, pay for something a few people decided.”
Thirteen days into the 21st partial, federal government shutdown in U.S. history, residents are still unable to use facilities at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
After conflicting agendas between President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders over border security funding resulted in the stoppage of many government functions, federal parks across Clark County closed as well.
Along with Steigerwald and Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuges, Fort Vancouver has ceased operations and staffed business hours, due to the “lapse in federal appropriations.”
The historic site’s some two-dozen employees have also been without work and a paycheck for close to two weeks now, including the Christmas holiday and New Year’s.
In 2016, over 1.1 million people visited the fort, generating nearly $64 million in revenue for the local economy.
Residents living around the fort, as well as those visiting from across the river and beyond are unable to drive through the park or enter the fort’s gates. The visitor’s center and Pearson Air Museum are also closed for the duration of the shutdown.
Some saw the price of the shutdown as fairly small compared to the issue of border security funding at the federal level.
“Whatever it takes to get this country safe,” said Drew Fuller of Vancouver, before beginning a walk around the fort’s trails. “If we have to actually go through these tough times to make sure the security of this country stays in tact, I’m fully willing to deal with it.”
Other residents viewed the closure as costly for the employees unable to work and saw the shutdown as an unnecessary interruption for Congress.
“I think it’s just tragic what’s happening in our country,” said Chris Young of Officer’s Row in Vancouver. “They’re not looking at the bigger picture of what might benefit all, and what brings a lot of people enjoyment. So far, I haven’t directly been affected by it.”
“The one thing I’m more conscious of is to not drop my garbage in the garbage cans,” said Chris Adams, also of Vancouver. “Because I know that they’re not going to be emptied out. I definitely feel for the employees that aren’t working now. This is the result of our president, essentially crying about his wall.”
Many of those using the park surrounding the fort echoed that they themselves had not yet felt an impact, but thought it must be unfortunate for families visiting for the holidays, who would be unable to see the historic and preserved sites.
“I’m sure a lot of people from out of town are bummed for not being able to visit,” said Kyle Comley while walking in the park with friend Dani Charsha. “It’s same old, same old. It seems like the government has been doing this for a couple decades now.”
Ed Estrada Jr. of Camas brought his visiting family to the fort to find it closed on the 12th day of the shutdown. Ed’s father, Ed Estrada Sr., immigrated to the U.S. from Guatemala and was accompanied by several family members visiting from the country.
“I’m sure they’ll work it out, I don’t think it’s gonna last forever,” said the younger Estrada. “I think they need to build the wall, it’s gotten out of hand. We can’t have an open border … ”
“Even though we are all immigrants,” Estrada Sr. said.
“My dad came here, but he as came here legally. He followed the rules. Why should other people come in here illegally?” Ed Jr. said.
Other family members agreed but thought the disputed proposals causing the shutdown were not the best solution.
“I don’t think we need a wall,” said Courtney Estrada, Ed Jr.’s cousin. “I’d rather, like, reform how people come here.”
Brother and sister, Peter and Rachel Nordlund came across the river from Tigard. They didn’t know about the closure until we spoke with them in the fort’s garden.
“I don’t know if I’m disappointed, it’s a bummer,” Rachel said. “I don’t agree with the idea of building a wall. I would rather be, like, spending money trying to figure out the policies that are behind that.”
“It’s just unfortunate,” Peter said. “The people whose job it is to find the best compromise, that they can’t come to that compromise. Everybody’s really fighting for one extreme, and people are willing to let everybody go without a job for a while, to see if they can get that extreme.”