Nearly two weeks following the government shutdown, Utah’s national parks are once again open. Due to government furloughs, the five national parks in the state were temporarily closed. Although the closures caused havoc for travelers, state parks reaped the benefits.
During the monthly Utah Office of Tourism meeting on Oct. 11, Utah State Parks Director Fred Hayes explained that all 43 state parks have stepped in and honored national park passes for free admission to Utah’s parks. “Dead Horse Point was most effected by the (national park) shutdown,” explained Hayes. “The parking lots were filled to capacity and vehicles were even parked in areas never filled before.”
The tourism board feels that the national park shutdown helped promote Utah’s state parks. “We had travelers from across the world visit state parks this past week,” Hayes stated. “A family from Germany was thankful that their vacation wasn’t ruined due to the closures. We feel that everyone who changed their plans and went to a state park rather than a national park will go home and tell at least 20 people about our parks and in turn they will tell 20 people. Word of mouth should draw attention to our resources.”
On the flip side however, businesses and communities were drastically affected by the national park closures. According to tourism board member, Lance Syrett, October is a huge month for national park visitors. “In the Moab area, it will take six months to rebuild the income lost during the closure,” Syrett explained. “The area lost over a million dollars in revenue due to cancelled reservations.”
The travel board agreed that efforts from Utah Governor Gary Herbert lead to the reopening of the five national parks in the state. “The governor showed initiative and was an example to other states,” explained Utah Office of Tourism Director Vicki Varela. “Arizona and Colorado are the only other states who are opening their national parks with state funding. We believe others will soon follow.”
Along with the national parks opening over the weekend, Glen Canyon/Lake Powell, Cedar Breaks and Natural Bridges were also reopened to visitors. Varela advises travelers to check for up to the minute park updates before visiting the sites. This information is available at www.visitutah.com.
Also available on the website is a section titled 50 Awesome Alternatives to Utah’s National Parks. This serves as a travelers guide to things to do and see in Utah.