Government Shutdown: Utah Organizations Partner to Keep Parks Open

As the federal government shutdown continues, multiple Utah entities are collaborating to provide custodial and visitor services at the state’s most visited national parks, Bryce Canyon and Zion, the Utah Office of Tourism reports. Over the holiday period, the organization reported that the state would provide funding to underwrite the costs of keeping visitor centers open and keeping the park's restrooms and public areas clean and trash-free. With the shutdown continuing, those costs are now being underwritten through a series of custom agreements.

The latest arrangement, finalized today, extends support for Zion National Park through January 12. It is a partnership among four entities: Washington County, the city of St. George, the Zion Forever Project and the Utah Office of Tourism. Each partner is paying $7,327 to underwrite visitor and custodial services.

“Utahns love our national parks and we work together to solve problems,” said Governor Gary R. Herbert in a written statement. “Collaborating stretches dollars to protect natural resources and ensure travelers have a positive experience.”

Meanwhile, operations at Bryce Canyon National Park are currently funded by the Bryce Canyon Natural History Association through January 10. Arches National Park was supported by the state through December 31. With visitation projections declining at Arches for January, the state’s support ended on Dec. 31. Gates were closed this week at Arches and the Island in the Sky District at Canyonlands National Park due to heavy snowfall. Capitol Reef National Park has very low winter visitation, so the state did not underwrite any costs there.  

If the shutdown continues beyond the funded dates, the state will continue working with regional partners to identify the best solution, the Utah Office of Tourism said.  

Visitation projections are based on historic trends. Last January, approximately 108,000 people visited Zion National Park and 32,000 people visited Bryce Canyon. Both parks are reporting dramatically higher visitation than last year, officials said.  

“State and local leaders in Utah are deeply committed to protecting the visitor experience and the natural resources at these parks,”
said Vicki Varela, managing director of the Utah  Office of Tourism and Film. “The feedback we’ve gotten from visitors has been overwhelmingly positive. Much of the credit goes to dedicated National Park Service staff who have stepped up in a big way under difficult circumstances.”

The Utah Office of Tourism is offering up-to-date information on its own website, Personalized service has been extended on the site’s live web chat. The site includes park-by-park information to ensure travelers are informed of current conditions, as well as alternative options to visiting Arches National Park.

Park costs have been underwritten in three phases of the shutdown: 

December 22 - 31: Utah Office of Tourism

Jan. 1 - 5: Zion National Park: Zion Forever Project; Jan. 1 - 10, Bryce Canyon National Park: Bryce Canyon History Association

Jan. 6 - 12: Zion National Park: Zion Forever Project, Washington County, city of St. George and Utah Office of Tourism

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