Share

Arizona, Some Other States Reopen National Parks

Brian Skoloff and Matthew Daly
Published: October 12, 2013

AP Photo/Mike Stewart

This April 22, 2008, file photo, shows the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The National Park Service is reopening to tourists a highway pull-out area that can be used to view Mount Rushmore.

SALT LAKE CITY — 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. Meanwhile, 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 that flows when the scenic attractions are open.

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.

In additional to state money, cash provided by the town of Tusayan, just outside the South Rim entrance, and private business would also be included in the funding.

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.

The town of Tusayan, and area businesses have pledged $400,000 to help reopen the canyon, but Wilder said it was unclear if the Interior Department could accept private funds.

(MORE: Oddball Places to Visit That Are Still Open)

In Utah, federal workers rushed to reopen five national parks for 10 days after the state sent $1.67 million to the U.S. 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.

"This is a practical and temporary solution that will lessen the pain for some businesses and communities in Utah during this shutdown," Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement.

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."

In Colorado, officials said a deal had been struck for the state to pay $360,000 to reopen Rocky Mountain National Park for 10 days to allow tourists to reach Estes Park. The visitors are needed to help the town recover from flooding.

(MORE: Creepy Abandoned Theme Parks)

Just over 400 national parks, recreation areas and monuments — including such icons as the Grand Canyon and Yosemite — have been closed since Oct. 1 because of the partial government shutdown.

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees have been furloughed, and lawmakers from both parties have complained that the closures have wreaked havoc on communities that depend on tourism.

Interior Department spokesman Blake Androff said Thursday the government had no plans to reimburse states that pay to reopen parks. But members of Congress introduced legislation Friday to refund the money within 90 days.

In Utah, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert estimated the economic impact of the federal government shutdown at $100 million in his state.

Missouri Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon's administration was working on a proposal to reopen parks in that state, including the Gateway Arch grounds in St. Louis and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways Park in southern Missouri.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said his state can't afford to reopen its parks, as did Nevada Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Sandoval said Nevada is already facing critical funding decisions on dozens of programs, including food stamps, unemployment insurance and aid to women, infants and children.

In Wyoming, Republican Gov. Matt Mead's office said the state would not pay to reopen two heavily visited national parks or Devil's Tower national monument.

"Wyoming cannot bail out the federal government, and we cannot use state money to do the work of the federal government," Mead spokesman Renny MacKay said.

MORE: New Sites Added to Global Geoparks Network

A view of the Azores Global Geopark in Portugal, one of 10 new sites added to the UNESCO-supported Global Geoparks Network on Sept. 2013. Situated at the triple junction between the North American, Eurasian and African tectonic plates, Azores' geomorphology is shaped by volcanic and tectonic forces. (UNESCO/Patrick McKeever)


Featured Blogs

93L in Eastern Atlantic Growing More Organized

By Dr. Jeff Masters
July 28, 2014

An area of disturbed weather located near 10°N, 33°W at 8 am EDT Monday, about 500 miles southwest of the Cape Verde Islands, was designated Invest 93L by NHC early Monday morning. This disturbance is a more serious threat than Tropical Depression Two of last week, and has the potential to develop into a strong tropical storm before reaching the Lesser Antilles Islands on Friday or Saturday.

June 2014 Global Weather Extremes Summary

By Christopher C. Burt
July 26, 2014

June was globally the warmest such on record according to NOAA/NCDC. See Jeff Master’s blog about this posted last Thursday. The month featured heat waves in portions of Japan, China, Western Europe, Central Asia, and Mexico. Late season cold and even some snowfall were observed in Estonia, Russia, and Scandinavia mid-month. Deadly flooding occurred in Bulgaria, Paraguay, Afghanistan, India and Sri Lanka. An intense dust storm struck Tehran, Iran on June 2nd. Yet another intense hurricane (Cristina) formed in the Eastern Pacific.

Live Blog: Tracking Hurricane Arthur as it Approaches North Carolina Coast

By Shaun Tanner
July 3, 2014

This is a live blog set up to provide the latest coverage on Hurricane Arthur as it threatens the North Carolina Coast. Check back often to see what the latest is with Arthur. The most recent updates are at the top.

Tropical Terminology

By Stu Ostro
June 30, 2014

Here is some basic, fundamental terminology related to tropical cyclones. Rather than a comprehensive and/or technical glossary, this represents the essence of the meaning & importance of some key, frequently used terms.

2013-14 - An Interesting Winter From A to Z

By Tom Niziol
May 15, 2014

It was a very interesting winter across a good part of the nation from the Rockies through the Plains to the Northeast. Let's break down the most significant winter storms on a month by month basis.

What the 5th IPCC Assessment Doesn't Include

By Angela Fritz
September 27, 2013

Melting permafrost has the potential to release an additional 1.5 trillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and could increase our global average temperature by 1.5°F in addition to our day-to-day human emissions. However, this effect is not included in the IPCC report issued Friday morning, which means the estimates of how Earth's climate will change are likely on the conservative side.