National Parks Open Despite Shutdown, But Only If States Pay

National Parks Open

The Obama administration announced that national parks can reopen – but the government won’t pay for it.

States that want to open their parks will have to come up with the money to pay for the opening and running costs.

Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, told state officials that she would consider applications to reopen the 401 parks that have been closed since Oct 1. But this is on condition that she can reach agreements with governors who are willing to fully fund the costs, including payments to National Park Service personnel.

She has spoken to official from four states – Colorado, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming – who expressed interest in opening the parks with state and donated funds.

Blake Androff, an Interior Department spokesman, said that the state’s payments would be classified as “donations” and would not be reimbursed unless Congress agreed. A number of Republicans said the conditions set by the Interior Department were impractical.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota, offered to pay for a partial reopening of Mount Rushmore. The gift shop, restaurant and museum would remain closed, but visitors would have been able to use the parking lot and view the sculptures.

Jewell said on Thursday that South Dakota could pay to reopen the monument, but only if it opened the monument in its entirety.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said about 18,000 visitors are being turned away each day from the Grand Canyon. The town of Tusayan reports that its businesses are losing more than $200,000 a day.

He said that if the offer had been made in good faith, then the Park Service should be willing to agree to a partial reopening, following the precedent of the last government shutdown in 1995.

In Utah,Gov. Gary Herbert’s staff was attempting to put together a proposal to reopen some or all of its parks. The state has five major national parks, and it was trying to figure out how much it could afford.

For example, Zion National Park costs $50,000 per day to operate. Closure of the park has cost nearly $3.5 million to the local economy and 72,000 visitors have been kept away. It is possible the Utah Legislature will need to convene a special session to appropriate the necessary funds.

As of this moment, the situation regarding the reopening of the national parks is still unclear.