Funding to keep three National Parks open during the federal government shutdown will end on December 31st.
According to a report released by FOX 13 Thursday morning, Utah State Treasurer David Damschen stated that the current daily spend by the state to keep Bryce, Zion and Arches National parks is roughly $10,000. These funds are being used to keep custodial services and visitor centers open for the parks.
“There’s an agreement struck that’s supposed to fund these minimal services through the end of the year. Beyond that, I do not know. Let’s hope for a quick resolution,” stated Damschen.
While the date has been set for when state funding ends, the state’s Office of Tourism confirmed that it plans on evaluating the benefit and cost of extending the funding to the national parks if the current shutdown continues into 2019. Damschen stated that Utah could easily continue to afford what it’s spending to keep the parks opened. He also believes that continuing to keep open the parks is a benefit to those communities who depend on the tourism dollars that come from the National Parks.
“Can we? Absolutely yes. Should we? That’s not my call, but I’m supportive of the decisions made thus far," said Damschen in regards to continuing the funding.
According to the Utah Office of Tourism, Springdale which is the closest city to Zion National Park, was still seeing the same amount of visitors this year compared to last, when there was no government shutdown, helping demonstrate that their economy was not being harmed. Numbers for those cities closest to Bryce and Arches have not been confirmed at this time.
Compared to the million dollars spent by the state during the last two major government shutdowns, the current rate of $10,000 a day is less of a burden. But with the lower funding being provided during this shutdown, the level of services offered has also been cut, limiting access to certain parts of the parks.
Governor Gary Herbert raised his complaint in regards to the lack of any sort of reimbursement to the state after what they spent during the last shutdown. State Treasurer David Damschen believes that due to a federal policy that prevents them from reimbursing any of the funds spent, the state will never see that money again.