FRITCH, Texas (KVII) — The National Park Service in Hutchinson County has just over 30 employees currently furloughed due to the partial government shutdown. It raises a question who is patrolling the Lake Meredith National Recreation Area?
A number of different agencies are helping Federal Law Enforcement officers who are working without pay while their co-workers are furloughed.
“We do try to get out there and patrol as much as we can,” said Kirk Coker, Hutchinson County Sheriff. “I get out and patrol and my Chief Deputy does on occasion. We just patrol the around the lake and let them know there’s law enforcement out there even though the government is on shutdown.”
Two federal agents rotate in shifts covering the grounds. Assistance, if needed, is provided by the Hutchinson County Sheriff’s Office, Fritch Police Department, Moore and Potter County Sheriff’s deputies, as well, since the park is in three counties.
Despite visitation being considerably less during the winter months, in the event of an actual emergency on the lake that requires search and water rescue efforts, Sheriff Coker tells ABC 7 News, multiple law enforcement agencies would work together to handle the situation.
“The Game Wardens have boats readily available,” said Coker. “We have people that will also take their boats out and put deputies on them to assist with rescues and recoveries. We still have access to get out on the water and help people. Amarillo Police Department has a Dive Team and Texas DPS (Department of Public Safety) has boats and a divers.”
The partial Government shutdown is now 19 days in. In the event it lasts into February or March and more people visit Lake Meredith, Sheriff Coker tells ABC 7 News they will plan accordingly to handle more visitors.
“We would patrol more as far as being on the water Game Wardens would probably assume that responsibility,” said Coker. “I would probably make better arrangements to have a boat closer and available if we needed to assist. I really don’t for see that happening until the spring.”