Four Pearl Harbor nonprofits are shelling out about $18,000 a day to keep the USS Arizona Memorial visitor center staffed and open to the public during the government shutdown, which coincides with one of the busiest visitation times of the year, officials said.
"Wow, I did not know that," said Randy Chumbley, 48, an Iowa resident who was visiting the memorial Monday with a group of 13 people. "I think that's pretty awesome" that it's remained open, he said.
The Arizona Memorial "was the whole reason we came to Oahu," he added. "My wife and I have seen it. We just wanted our kids to see it, and our friends."
The site of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 -- centered on the sunken battleship grave for over 900 men -- is one of Hawaii's most visited tourist attractions.
According to the National Park Service, 1.95 million people visited the Arizona Memorial in 2017, just under the 2 million who visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island.
Pacific Historic Parks, which supports the Arizona Memorial, along with the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, Battleship Missouri Memorial and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum -- which all operate in the orbit of the Arizona Memorial -- are contributing to the funding for the park service to continue offering services at the memorial.
"People come from all over the world to see the memorial. ... As much as possible, we want to try to keep it open," said Aileen Utterdyke, Pacific Historic Parks president and CEO.
State governments and other groups across the nation are paying for some federal national parks to remain open during the government shutdown, which started Saturday.
"The problem is, we are nonprofits, and we don't make a lot of money," Utterdyke said. "And all the money we do make goes back either into the park or for education. ... So it's a major burden on nonprofits. It's very difficult -- and these are very difficult times for us."
The Arizona Memorial needs dock repairs, and since May no visitors have been able to step foot on the memorial, although Navy launches used for transportation motor past the memorial and Battleship Row on harbor tours.
The Navy boats were not affected by the shutdown with the Defense Department previously funded through fiscal 2019. The dock is expected to be repaired by March.
Confusion nationally as to whether the Arizona Memorial visitor center was open or closed since May (it has always remained open) created a dropoff in visitors for all four Pearl Harbor museums.
Utterdyke said the nonprofits are "doing as much as we can to help the visitors," but a request likely will have to be made for funding help if the shutdown continues.
"Who (we'll ask) we don't know," Utterdyke said, adding that could be the state or the community. Pacific Historic Parks is putting out feelers, she said.
The secondary funding is expected to keep the Arizona Memorial staffed and with services through Friday, she added. Some other national parks across the country have remained open with reduced services.
"Some national parks may remain accessible to visitors; however, access may change without notice," the National Park Service said on its website. "Some parks are closed completely. Some visitor services may be available when provided by concessioners or other entities. For most parks, there will be no National Park
Service-provided visitor services, such as restrooms, trash collection, facilities, or road maintenance."
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park said it would "remain as accessible as possible," with some park roads, trails and viewpoints accessible to visitors.
Emergency and rescue services are limited. The park said Chain of Craters Road, Escape Road, all campgrounds and all backcountry areas are closed.
This article is written by William Cole from The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.