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But in an interview Thursday night, she said it is an important deal and predicts legislators will support the agreement.
"There’s a lot of emotion wrapped up in that and these are serious issues and we’ve avoided any potential confrontation," Lockhart said. "We’ve got a lot of cool-headed people who are thinking about these things very seriously and want to make sure we do the right thing and take a step forward and not backward."
Coalition: Park closures drive losses in visitor spending
More than $3.4 million in visitor spending has been lost since the Oct. 1 closure of Zion National Park, according to the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.
The park’s closure due to the federal government shutdown has threatened more than 2,401 jobs, including 2,136 local jobs not affiliated with the National Park Service, the coalition said.
The group reported losses for Zion and other parks across the country for the first 10 days of the shutdown based on visitation numbers from Oct. 12, 2012.
Other major impacts in lost dollars include: $11.7 million at Grand Canyon National Park, $5.2 million at Acadia National Park, and $23.1 million at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, whose district includes Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef national parks and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, said there has been frustration that the government would hurt small businesses and communities over a political squabble, but there is relief with the temporary fix.
Okerlund said though the governor initiated the process to reopen the parks, lawmakers will want a role.
"The Legislature should be involved," he said, "and will want to be involved in this process."
The closures of the parks and monuments have dealt a devastating blow to the visitor-dependent gateway communities around them. Zion National Park, for example, is the state’s third-most-visited tourist destination and a key piece of Utah’s $7.4 billion tourism economy.
In one example, Garfield County Commissioner Leland Pollock said the agreement between the feds and state has saved some 100 jobs at Ruby’s Inn near Bryce Canyon.
"We understand these local communities are hemorrhaging economically and that is our primary motivation, to restore our tourism infrastructure to being fully operational," said Ally Isom, Herbert’s spokeswoman. "That includes the national parks, because we do understand there are people at the local level that are suffering because of Washington, D.C.’s, inability to find a solution."
San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman said he was eager to assert county "jurisdiction" over Natural Bridges National Monument and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, but he is pleased that such action may not be necessary. San Juan was among several counties this week to declare a local emergency because of the harsh economic impact from the park closures.
"I’m thrilled to get these parks back open. That was our main objective. I’m proud of Governor Herbert stepping up," Lyman said in a phone interview Thursday morning from Halls Crossing on Lake Powell, standing near the quiet marina and boat ramp. "We would have been opening those today. We felt compelled to acquiesce to the governor’s request to stand down. We are subdivisions of the state, as much as we feel like bucking federal authority."
Washington County Commissioner Dennis Drake said Thursday’s development was welcome news because his county is home to Zion, which normally gets 10,000 visitors a day this time of year.
"It is huge for Washington County and all the recreation areas in the state. There are so many businesses that can be crushed by the closures," Drake said. U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, welcomed the breakthrough and commended Herbert and Jewell for "setting politics aside." He added he is confident Congress can agree to compensate states for keeping the parks open.
Sigh of relief » Even as state and county officials worked to open Utah’s national parks and monuments Thursday, uncertainty reigned in Springdale, just outside Zion National Park.
Joy Stein runs Joy Craft and Design, a small boutique on Zion Park Boulevard, the town’s main drag. Stein moved her business — which sells local arts and crafts and relies on tourism — a few blocks to its current location just two weeks ago, at almost exactly the time the government shutdown. Her plan was to use the money from her second job as a shuttle bus driver to stay afloat.
But when the government closed down, Stein’s bus driving gig closed along with it.
Stein had few details about any possible reopening, but said Thursday night that she had heard from friends it was coming within the next day. And despite the setbacks and weeks of lost money, Stein said reopening Zion by Saturday would help.
"Given how difficult the last few days have been, 24 hours is reasonable," she added.
Mark Chambers agreed. Chambers runs Under the Eaves, a bed and breakfast just a stone’s throw from Stein’s shop, and serves on the Springdale Town Council. He acknowledged that many people who were planning trips to Zion may have made alternative plans and he said the big question was if they would come back.
Chambers said some of the larger hotels have seen a loss of as much as 60 percent of their business and the negative economic impact of the shutdown has reverberated throughout the surrounding communities as well. But he added that the busy season lasts through November and opening the park by Saturday would likely reinvigorate the community.
"It will make a huge difference," Chambers said. "Zion attracts the world but Springdale brings them back."Next Page >
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