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Deputy opens park despite government shutdown

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SEDONA, Ariz. -

Not everyone is willing to wait for the politicians to work things out and reopen the federal government.

An Oak Creek Canyon Park near Sedona is on federal land, but that's not keeping the tourists away.
 
A sheriff's deputy opened the gates to a popular day-use area that is supposed to be closed because of the government shutdown.

That deputy decided to defy a federal order because he says keeping the gates closed would pose a threat to public safety.

"The deputy sheriff saw that the traffic was badly snarled and decided the best move to make for public safety was to open the gates and let people use the parking spots," said Kelly Moffitt, with Recreation Resource Management, Inc.

The Call of the Canyon day-use area was filled with tourists Saturday, even though it shouldn't have been.

Park officials say tourists were parking on a windy road, holding up traffic and crossing the highway.

Tourists were happy to defy the shutdown and take in the autumn scenery.

"If the deputy decided to help the tourists of Sedona, I think I tip my hat off to him, it shows humanity," said Brian, a tourist.

Call of the Canyon is a pretty popular day-use area because of the gorgeous scenery; people like looking at the different colored leaves.

The people that were there know they weren't supposed to be there, but said they don't feel bad.

"If he opened the door to the public, I don't think he did anything wrong," said Aroosa Tabasum, a tourist.

Although the park was open, the bathrooms were locked and the trash won't be picked up because the staff has been furloughed, even though this area is maintained by a private company.

"With all these people in here, and we're technically closed, I'm not sure what would happen if someone got hurt. First of all, there's no one here to report it to," said Moffitt.

This particular day use area is the only one that was open Saturday.

Several other Arizona campgrounds and parks are still closed.

We don't know if the deputy will decide to open the gates again Sunday.

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