Utah Officials Fight to Keep National Parks Open During Government Shutdown

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The Utah National Parks, including Zion, Arches and Bryce, have been affected by the recent government shutdown. This shutdown, which took place just before Christmas in 2018,¬†occurred due to shortage of funds for a number of federal agencies. President Donald Trump and members of the Congress reached an impasse over a temporary funding measure due to it not containing funds for the president’s border wall.

The shutdown is now entering its third week and local officials have been working diligently to attempt to keep the parks open for residents and tourists alike. For the first two weeks of the shutdown, Zion remained partially operational. This was in thanks to funding from the state as well as the Zion Forever Project.

However, it was reported that those funds were set to run out on Jan. 6.

St. George Mayor Jon Pike made an announcement that, pending the continuation of the shutdown, plans were in place to keep Zion partially open through Jan.12. The funds were scheduled to be split four ways; among the city of St. George, the Utah Office of Tourism, Washington County and the Zion Forever Project.

Some costs, funded through the Utah Office of Tourism, have also been covered at Arches and Bryce Canyon. However, those monies were being used for cleaning purposes, visitor center staffing and the like. The clearing of roads was not covered through the funding.

Visitors that have been flocking to Arches, which is currently not running, have been disappointed to find that they would be turned away. It was estimated by information specialist Peggy McNeil that 98% of the international visitors to the park during this time have needed a further explanation of the shutdown. A video is also being shown at the visitor center highlighting areas in the park that are not open for personal viewing at this time.

A recent announcement by the National Park Service informed those involved that entrance fees would now be tapped into for funding. These fees will pay for expanded operations at the popular sites. However, there are many that are not comfortable with this use of funding, some even claiming it is illegal.

Regardless, this funding will allow park managers to welcome additional staff for purposes such as cleaning and maintenance as well as patrolling and the opening of small areas.

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