Deal Could Reopen Utah's National Parks
Utah’s governor has reached an agreement with the Obama administration that could get Utah’s national parks open again, though many details are still being worked out.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told Governor Gary Herbert the state of Utah will be allowed to use its own money to pay for operations of Utah’s five national parks and another eight national monuments. They’ve been closed since the federal government was shut down October 1st.
Ally Isom, the governor’s spokesperson, says there’s still a lot of work to do before the gates are unlocked.
Isom tells KUER, “The governor has offered to front the money as long as the state of Utah is repaid, so we have to work out some of those details with our Congressional delegation as well as our state legislature and county officials.”
The governor has some emergency money he could use for the parks, but if that’s not enough, he’d need legislative approval to dip into the state’s Rainy Day fund.
Reopening the parks can’t come soon enough for the counties that have been hurt by the shutdown. Ruth Dillon, the Grand County Council Administrator, says it’s been especially hard on hotels.
“The cancellations is what’s really hurting us now, the loss of confidence," Dillon says. "The European and Asian tourists who were literally turned away. Y’know, they flew here for Arches National Park and then were turned away, and so this has really been devastating in that emotional way.”
A group of National Park Service retirees has looked at the economic losses caused by the shutdown. It estimates the impact on the communities around just one of Utah’s parks, Zion, at more than three-and-a-half million dollars.
KUER's Bob Nelson contributed to this story.