SPRINGDALE – Zion National Park is gearing up for more visitors as warmer weather approaches, an effort that has been made more difficult by President Donald Trump’s freeze on hiring federal employees.
Trump issued a hiring freeze on federal civilian employees Jan. 23, ordering that no vacant positions existing as of Jan. 22 can be filled and no new positions can be created with the exception of military personnel.
Agency heads can exempt positions from the hiring freeze if needed “to meet national security or public safety responsibilities,” but uncertainty about the order and its details is causing confusion and difficulty for park managers, Zion National Park spokesman John Marciano said.
Zion relies heavily on seasonal employees to run the park during the busy summer season and typically hires 90-100 temporary workers each year, Marciano said.
Many of these seasonal employees have already been through the hiring process at Zion, but are now in limbo in the wake of Trump’s action.
“We’ve given them offers but we’ve had to retract those offers. Do they stand by and wait until we get the word, get the green light?” Marciano said. “We may not get the green light.”
The vagueness of Trump’s hiring freeze is troubling, he said, because the park relies on seasonal workers to manage the rising number of visitors.
“So it’s a further burden to us if we don’t get these people hired and on-station and trained,” Marciano said.
The park is already understaffed and the situation could worsen under the hiring freeze. Zion is among many national parks that are seeing increased visitation – more than 4 million people visited the park in 2016 and more are expected this year.
Zion Park managers and stakeholders are in the process of developing a visitor use management plan to deal with the crowds. Several options are being explored, including putting a cap on visitor numbers.
The plan will attempt to reconcile the increasing crowds with the Park Service mandate of offering a high-quality visitor experience while protecting the park’s resources for future generations.
Zion National Park will resume shuttle service within the park on Presidents Day weekend beginning in February 2017.
- Shuttle buses within the park will begin operating on weekends Feb. 18-19.
- Shuttles will leave the visitor center at 7 a.m. and travel up Zion Canyon to designated trailhead stops.
- The last returning shuttle will leave Stop 9, at the Temple of Sinawava, at 6:45 p.m. and return to the visitor center.
- The same schedule will be in effect on the weekends of Feb. 25-26 and March 4-5.
- The in-town Springdale shuttle service will not operate during these weekends.
- Regular shuttle service in the park and in Springdale will begin March 11 and continue through late fall.
Road construction is expected to continue in Rockville on state Route 9 from approximately 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Wait times along the construction route can be up to 15 minutes in duration.
Article courtesy of Julie Applegate, reporter for St. George News.