States To Reopen National Parks During Shutdown

Still at a standoff between the people and the government at the Parks. Photo courtesy of Ceiba Adventures

Still at a standoff between the people and the government at the Parks. Photo courtesy of Ceiba Adventures

By Eugene Buchanan

Boaters trying paddle in such national parks as Arizona's Grand Canyon and Colorado's Dinosaur National Monument in the midst of the government shutdown have reason to be hopeful.

Under pressure from several governors, the Obama administration recently said it might allow some shuttered national parks to reopen if states use their own money to pay for park operations.

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Interior spokesman Blake Androff said the agency will "consider agreements with governors who indicate an interest and ability to fully fund National Park Service personnel to reopen national parks in their states."

So the federal government will allow the states to reopen national parks on their dollar. Governors of Arizona, Utah, South Dakota and Colorado have made requests to reopen some or all of their parks, which have been closed since Oct. 1 from the shutdown. Across the country, nearly 20,000 NPS employees have been furloughed. While the office of Utah governor Gary Herbert has reportedly already wired money in an attempt to open the state’s five national parks, other states are still working out details.

In Arizona, where river runners with permits to run the Grand Canyon have been kept from the river with barricades, a spokesman for Gov. Janice Brewer said, "If there’s something we can do to help reopen it, Gov. Brewer has been committed to trying to find that way."

Officials have allowed access for fisherman to launch from Lee’s Ferry and go upstream toward the Glenn Canyon dam, but Grand Canyon river trips have not been permitted to launch from Lee’s Ferry. While many remain camped out in the parking lot at Marble Canyon Lodge, nicknamed "the dirt eddy," others have high-tailed it home. The park service recently issued a plan to reimburse permit holders their permit fees and allow them to re-launch after the shutdown ends, within certain parameters. Signs of the shutdown ending and parks opening aren't yet on the horizon line. 

"We are hoping that the state of Arizona and the NPS can come to an agreement soon," says Scott Davis of Grand Canyon outfitter Ceiba Adventures. "Every day is crucial to the businesses that operate in and around the Park. We called the Governor's office and were told that they're working feverishly on a resolution. We hope that's the case.  We hope it is resolved in the next 24 hrs….Keep your fingers crossed.

Sources say that businesses outside the Grand Canyon have pledged $400,000 for the park to re-open. According to AP, during the 1995 government shutdown, the Department of Interior agreed to a $17,000-a-day deal from the state of Arizona to keep the park open to Mather Point.

The National Park Service reports that the Grand Canyon's 4.3 million annual visitors spend more than $467 million each year, with October one of the park's busiest months.

Click below to read more stories:

Park Service to Boaters: Come Back Later

A Conversation From the Barricades
Grand Disappointment