State officials confirmed on Friday that out of Utah’s 5 national parks, only one will continue to be staffed after the new year while the state pulls back its finding as the partial federal government shutdown continues.
Managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism, Vicki Varela, stated that a nonprofit organization will pay around $2,000 – $2,5000 a day to help keep Zion National Park open with minimal staffing and services such as public restrooms and trash collection from Jan. 1 – 5.
The remaining parks in Utah, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands will remain opened without those services available to visitors. According to Varela, it is anticipated that they will have fewer visitors than Zion.
Since the government shutdown began, the state of Utah has been paying up to $7,500 a day to keep Arches, Bryce and Zion staffed through the end on 2018. The decision to cut funding for Arches and Bryce Canyon and leave them unstaffed was made after consulting with the park superintendents and was based on calculations to help the money stretch farther all while helping the most visitors possible, stated Varela.
The nonprofit “The Zion Forever Project” is footing the bill to help keep the red rocks vistas and slot canyons of Zion open and staffed. According to Varela, Zion National Park is still expecting 4,000 – 5,000 visitors per day during this week.
“The natural resources to be protected, the visitor experience needs to be protected,” Varela said. “All we’re able to do is a patchwork job. . .. You can’t possibly have that full national park experience without full staffing.”
State officials will reassess the funding situation for the National Parks after January 5.