Agreement In Place To Keep Zion National Park Open Another Week

Jan 4, 2019, 7:19 PM

ZION NATIONAL PARK, Utah – The Beehive State’s renowned Zion National Park will remain staffed during another week of the partial federal government shutdown thanks to a funding agreement between the state, local governments and a non-profit.

“Our goal is to do right by the visitors and right by the natural resources,” said Vicki Varela, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism.

The announcement came as funding was set to run out on Saturday, to keep essential employees on duty at Zion.

The $29,308 needed to operate the park from January 6-12 will be split equally between the Utah Office of Tourism, the City of St. George, Washington County and the Zion National Park Forever Project.

“We’ve got a four-way partnership going forward,” Varela said. “So the cost is not excessive for any one of us.”

The funding will keep Zion’s visitor center open and allow for trash collection and bathroom cleaning.

“While Zion National Park is our area’s biggest economic driver, the park means so much more to us than just dollars and cents,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said in a statement.

Pike said the agencies involved in the funding effort have worked well with each other in the past, and he is pleased with the collaboration.

In 2017, Zion welcomed 4.5 million visitors, making it the third-most visited park in the entire country.

“The fact our state, county and city would deem this so important is a sign to everyone of what Zion National Park means to the lives and the livelihoods of all of us in Utah,” said Lyman Hafen, executive director of the Zion Forever Project.

Utah spent $55,000 to keep three of Utah’s five national parks (Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion) open from when the partial shutdown started on December 22 until the end of the year.

“It was money well spent,” Varela said, adding that visitation to Zion exceeded expectations over the holiday season.

Starting on New Year’s Day, the non-profit Zion National Park Forever Project took over funding for the park until January 5.

Bryce Canyon National Park was being funded through January 10 because of a donation from the Bryce Canyon Natural History Association.

Utah will no longer pay to keep Arches National Park staffed during the shutdown, Varela said.

Zion and Bryce Canyon will be the priority parks for the remainder of the shutdown with agreements being negotiated as needed and on a short-term basis.

“We think the money that we have available at this point will stretch several more weeks,” Varela said.

Governor Gary Herbert’s office released a statement saying that the he was concerned about Utah residents being affected by the partial government shutdown.

“Thankfully, prudent planning and disciplined management by Utah’s hard-working public servants has minimized the impacts of this ongoing gridlock,” Deputy Chief of Staff Paul Edwards said in a statement. “Cooperation from federal and non-profit partners allows the State of Utah to manage just fine for the near term.”

However, Edwards said a persistent shutdown could put programs at risk that help low-income women and children.

“We trust those negotiating this impasse will quickly recognize the importance of finding solutions instead of broadcasting their differences,” Edwards’ statement went on to say.



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Agreement In Place To Keep Zion National Park Open Another Week