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Southern Utah emergency declared as message to Congress

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(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) A sign tells visitors to Zion National Park that the park is closed due to the federal government shutdown Tuesday October 1, 2013. Gov. Gary Herbert is asking President Obama to let the state operate Utah's national parks during the shutdown, saying their closure is hurting the economy.

By christopher smart

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Oct 07 2013 05:13PM
Updated Oct 10, 2013 10:38AM

The Washington County Commission on Monday unanimously approved a resolution declaring a "local emergency" because of the economic disruptions arising from the shutdown of Zion National Park and federally run campgrounds.

"This closure is having a devastating impact on those Washington County residents that rely on visitors to federally managed land, especially those that rely almost exclusively on visitors to Zion," the resolution reads in part.

The action was intended as a message to Congress and federal officials to open national parks, said Washington County Commissioner Alan Gardner.

There is no provision for financial aid to residents and businesses.

"There is a significant amount of tourism connected to the park," Gardner said in an interview. "Those who are affected directly are getting real anxious."

Officials from Washington, Kane, San Juan, Garfield, Sevier, Grand, Iron, Wayne, and Piute counties – along with the representatives from Coconino and Mohave counties in Arizona — met in person and via conference call Monday to discuss the mounting economic impacts of national park closures in their respective areas, according to a prepared statement.

Springdale, the town at the entrance of Zion, normally sees 10,000 visitors a day this time of year, Gardner said. Now, it’s like a ghost town.

Garfield County officials described a similar scenario surrounding the closure of Bryce Canyon National Park, Gardner said.

All the counties at the meeting reported stories of economic downturn and distress in their areas, according to the statement .

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