Some national parks reopen under scheme in which states pay for cost
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Tourists returned to the Grand Canyon on Saturday after Arizona officials along with several counterparts agreed to a federal government plan to reopen national parks, which had been closed as a result of the partial government shutdown.
But the Obama administration's OK to reopen tourist areas across the nation came with a big caveat: States must foot the bill with money they likely won't see again.
So far, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Arizona and New York have agreed to open parks that had been closed since the beginning of the month. Governors in other states were trying to gauge what would be the bigger economic hit — paying to keep the areas operating or losing the tourist money the scenic attractions draw.
South Dakota and several corporate donors worked out a deal with the National Park Service to reopen Mount Rushmore beginning Monday. Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard said it will cost $15,200 a day to pay the federal government to run the landmark in the Black Hills. He said he has wired four days' worth of donations.
In New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state will pay $61,600 a day to fully fund Park Service personnel, and the Statue of Liberty will open Sunday.
In Arizona, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer balked at spending about $112,000 a day for a full reopening of the Grand Canyon. She said a partial reopening would be much cheaper while allowing tourists to visit and businesses to benefit.
“The daily cost difference is enormous, especially without assurances that Arizona will be reimbursed,” said Andrew Wilder, a spokesman for Brewer.
In the end, Arizona agreed to pay the Park Service $651,000 to keep the Grand Canyon open for seven days. The $93,000 a day is less than the $112,000 the federal government had said was needed to fund park operations each day.
At this time of year, the Grand Canyon draws about 18,000 people a day who pump an estimated $1 million a day into the local economy.
In Utah, federal workers rushed to reopen five national parks for 10 days once the state sent $1.67 million to the government with the hope of saving its lucrative tourist season.
Zion National Park superintendent Jock Whitworth said staff members began opening gates and removing barriers and expected to have the park fully operational Saturday.
It was welcome news for beleaguered shop owners in the small town of Springdale adjacent to Zion. Hotels have been vacant, and rental and retail shops have seen sales plummet during the shutdown.
“It's going to be awesome,” said Jenna Milligan of Zion Outfitters, an outdoor gear rental shop. “A lot of businesses have suffered severely because of the government. I just hope it does stay open through autumn.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.