Utah national parks reopen during government shutdown

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Gov. Gary Herbert announced that he has reached a deal with the National Park Service to reopen eight parks in Utah that had closed for the government shutdown Oct. 10.

The parks covered by the agreement include the five national parks — Zion, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands and Bryce Canyon — as well as Cedar Breaks, Glen Canyon and Natural Bridges.

Zion National Park opens with limited services Oct. 11, with all other services, including shuttles, opening Oct. 12, according to its answering machine message. The Zion Mt. Carmel Highway and tunnel are opening as well.

Forest Service land is still technically closed. Residents may hike in the Uintas, but restrooms and some roads are closed.

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told Herbert that workers would be told to return to work as soon as Utah sent the agreed-upon sum of $1.67 million. The parks should begin opening Oct. 11 and be fully operational by Oct. 12.

“Utah’s national parks are the backbone of many rural economies, and hard-working Utahns are paying a heavy price for this shutdown,” Herbert said in a press release. “The world should know Utah is open for business and visitors are welcome.”

The mild temperatures and colorful leaves of autumn make October the peak month for tourism-related revenue in Utah. The state usually brings in $100 million in October.

Zion National Park is reopening during the government shutdown. Photo by Elliott Miller.
Zion National Park is reopening during the government shutdown. (Photo by Elliott Miller)

The agreement followed several days of negotiations between the governor and the National Park Service. It will keep the parks open for 10 days or until the government reopens. If the government reopens before the 10 days are up, the money will be returned. The U.S. Congress may vote to return funds after the government reopens, and a press release said the governor has “engaged Utah’s congressional delegation to actively pursue timely repayment to state coffers.”

If the government does not reopen within the 10-day timeframe, the governor can seek another agreement with the National Park Service.

Utah will pay the federal government initially using money from the Division of State Parks of the Department of Natural Resources. If more funds are needed, the Utah legislature will meet for a special session on Oct. 16.

Scheduling details for the Utah parks can be found at visitutah.com.

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