Some national parks that were closed to tourists in the aftermath of the government shutdown on Oct. 1 can now be reopened if their home states are willing to pay for their upkeep, the Obama administration announced on Thursday, but added that control of the national parks would not be ceded to the states.
Associated Press reported that governors in at least four states -- Utah, South Dakota, Arizona and Colorado -- had sought permission to open national parks within their boundaries so that tourism, and the resultant income, to these states did not suffer from the government shutdown.
"The current federally mandated closure is decimating the bottom line of bed-and-breakfast business owners and operators in Torrey (Utah), outfitters at Bryce Canyon City and restaurant owners in Moab," Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said in a letter to Obama, cited by AP. The economic impact of the government shutdown on Utah is estimated to be at about $100 million, AP reported.
A spokesman told AP that Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona is working to find a way to reopen the Grand Canyon, a crucial source of revenue for the southwestern state, and said: "It's not ideal, but if there's something we can do to help reopen it, Gov. Brewer has been committed to trying to find that way."
On late Thursday, Herbert inked a deal with, and wired funds to, the Interior Department to open five national parks -- Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef -- and the national monuments of Natural Bridges, Glen Canyon and Cedar Breaks, for 10 days. The park gates are expected to be open by Saturday morning.
KSL.com reported that Utah loaned the federal government nearly $1.7 million to reopen these sites for 10 days, and the unused amount will be returned back to the state if the government shutdown ends before then.
“Come on down to Southern Utah. We expect you’ll have a great time in Southern Utah and our parks are open," Herbert said, during a signing ceremony on Thursday night, according to KSL.com.
“Utah’s national parks are the backbone of many rural economies, and hardworking Utahns are paying a heavy price for this shutdown,” Herbert said. “I commend Secretary [Sally] Jewell for being open to Utah’s solution, and the world should know Utah is open for business and visitors are welcome.”
Keerthi Mohan is an IBTimes reporter covering entertainment and human interest stories.