National Park Service closes some parks after visitor influx during pandemic

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MARIN COUNTY, Calif. — Ellis Island was once the United States' busiest immigration hub, with teams of doctors working to prevent the spread of infectious diseases including measles, scarlet fever and diphtheria.

On March 16, the National Park Service temporarily closed the site to protect visitors and staff from the spread of coronavirus. Along with the nearby Statue of Liberty, it's one of a handful of national park closures related to the virus.


The shuttered parks, which include historic sites and natural spaces, go from California's Golden Gate National Recreation Area (the nation's most popular NPS site) to the Washington Monument in D.C.

Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty were both closed effective Monday, March 16.

In Washington, the Washington Monument closed on March 14, along with Ford's Theatre National Historic Site, the Old Post Office Tower and Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument.

California's Golden Gate National Recreation Area also announced a temporary closure effective March 16. In San Francisco County, that includes Alcatraz Island, the Presidio Visitor Center, Fort Point NHS, Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center and Lands End Lookout.

Closures in nearby Marin County include the Marin Headlands Visitor Center, the Nike Missile Site, Point Bonita Lighthouse, Muir Woods National Monument and all park campgrounds. In the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, visitors may still use trails and open areas.

Additional closures are listed on this page of active alerts, along with facility closures in some parks that remain open.

These are likely to change in the coming days. The National Park Service announced it planned to modify operations to comply with CDC guidelines, with the possibility of closing facilities that are unable to comply.

"The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners is the priority of the National Park Service," said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt in the statement. The Department of the Interior oversees the park service. "Park superintendents are empowered to modify their operations, including closing facilities and canceling programs, to address the spread of the coronavirus."