Cones are shown along the road to Mount Rushmore. The National Parks Service placed the cones there to prevent viewers from stopping on the side of the road to view the monument. / Submitted photo
Blocking access to trails and programs at South Dakota’s most popular attraction was one thing, but state officials didn’t expect Congress’ budget stalemate to shut down a view of Mount Rushmore.
The National Park Service placed cones along highway viewing areas outside Mount Rushmore this week, barring visitors from pulling over and taking pictures of the famed monument.
The cones first went up Oct. 1, said Dusty Johnson, Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s chief of staff. The state asked that they be taken down, and federal officials did so with some of them. The state was told the cones were a safety precaution to help channel cars into viewing areas rather than to bar their entrance.
“I think reasonable people can disagree about that,” Johnson said.
The cones were down again Friday as a blizzard hit the Black Hills and plows needed access to the roads, Johnson said. He said the state would be monitoring to see whether the cones are put back along viewing areas.
“Once the snow’s off the ground, we’re going to be keeping an eye on how the cones go up,” Johnson said.
The Buffalo News reported that a tour group of dozens of people from western New York was unable to take pictures of the monument because highway viewing areas were coned off.
“It’s all closed up,” the newspaper quoted North Collins, N.Y., resident Hilde Werneth as saying. “They won’t even let you stop and take a picture. You can only drive by.”
Jim Hagen, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism, said the situation is hurting people from out-of-state and international visitors who are in South Dakota to visit the monument.
“They won’t even let you pull off on the side of the road,” Hagen said. “I just don’t know what they’re trying to accomplish.”
A spokeswoman for the National Park Service in Omaha confirmed that the monument is closed, but she said she didn’t have details about cones. A message left at Mount Rushmore was not returned.