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Moab celebrates access to national parks but wants more
Recreation » Tourists, businesses need certainty that parks will stay open past Oct. 20, and want access to other federal sites and services.

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She surveyed 28 Moab businesses last week and calculated they were each losing on average $720 every day of the shutdown. That amounts to losses of more than $300,000 a day for the county, according to DeLay.

The shutdown also burned countless travelers. Michael Huot, his three brothers and a dozen of their friends were shut out of their White Rim journey, an epic bike ride in Canyonlands National Park overlooking the Green and Colorado rivers.

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"The government is there to represent the people. The land belongs to the people. It’s frustrating the government is keeping the people out," Huot said Friday while enjoying what was left of his Utah vacation in Arches.

The lesson he is taking back home to South Dakota is to plan national park trips for September, rather than October when the government’s fiscal year begins.

Italian Johannes Hopfgartner is on a three-month North American odyssey, but arrived on the Colorado Plateau this month to see the park gates slammed shut.

"I was totally disappointed. My whole trip was based on national parks," he said.

He made the best of his stay at other sites, such as Monument Valley. But on Friday he was reveling in the sunset glow at Delicate Arch, thinking about how to get to Bryce Canyon, Zion and Canyonlands national parks while they remain open.

"I’ve heard Utah stands up for people and tourists," a beaming Hopfgartner said.

But the parks are just a piece of the area’s offerings, which include river running, camping, hunting, climbing and cycling in a diverse array of sandstone and mountain landscapes.

Tejada was among 75 Utah business operators who signed an Oct. 4 letter to the state’s congressional delegation imploring Congress to pass a budget that gets federal land agencies — not just the parks — back on the job.

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"These public land closures put at risk Utah’s outdoor industry, which annually contributes $3.6 billion in wages and salaries and over $856 million in state and local tax revenue," states the letter, sent under the Utah Outdoor Business Network letterhead.

Moab has weathered the shutdown better than Springdale outside Zion National Park because it has so much non-park recreation nearby, according to Ashley Korenblat, a Moab-based cycling guide.

After the first week of the shutdown, lots of park-bound visitors went home happy because they still had great experiences at places such as Fisher Towers, Corona Arch and Negro Bill Canyon, she said.

Dead Horse Point State Park has seen record attendance during the shutdown, and campers piled into the county-operated Sand Flats Recreation Area. Still, because most non-park destinations are federally managed, many campgrounds, river put-ins and other developed recreation sites remain closed.

"Re-opening the parks is very much a temporary solution. People are camping in random spots," Korenblat said. "The land managers perform an important function that people need to be aware of, like protecting endangered species and deciding where to [allow] oil and gas [drilling]."

Despite the parks’ reopening, Tejada still can’t book next year’s river trips through Labyrinth and Desolation canyons or Dinosaur National Monument. And no one knows whether Utah’s parks will even be open past Oct. 20.

"Certainty is incredibly important. People want a vacation where they know what to expect. If they don’t have a guarantee, they won’t go," Tejada said.


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