Federal hiring freeze causing headaches at Rocky Mountain National Park

Every year for over a century, thousands of visitors have trekked to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) in search of adventure and beauty, and while 2017 will be no different, many visitors will experience delays and long lines for much of the busy season due to a slow hiring process and budgetary challenges.

RMNP has seen record breaking attendance in the last few years, and was the fourth most visited national park with over 4.5 million visitors in 2016. This year seems to be following the same trend, with visits in April reaching almost 21 percent higher than last year.

“We have always been one of the top parks as far as visitation, but in the last four years we have seen a 40 percent increase, and the last two years there has been a 32 percent increase,” said Kyle Patterson, spokesperson for RMNP.

The amount of permanent staff at RMNP is around 200, and that doubles during the busy season. This year however, there are significant hiring delays for both seasonal and permanent employees.

“Our challenge this year was when the [federal] hiring freeze was implemented, the ramifications led to hiring delays,” Patterson said.

Three days after taking office, President Donald Trump issued a federal hiring freeze for most federal organizations. This included permanent employees of the National Parks System. The hiring freeze has since been lifted, but it has created a backlog of background checks from dozens of federal departments that need employees, and all these employees must be funneled through the same process.

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