GREEN RIVER -- Five Utah state parks recommended for closure will now stay open for at least another year. Legislators decided to spend $1.5 million to keep those parks operating after an audit showed they were losing money.
The Green River State Park golf course was among the areas in danger of closing, and locals are relieved it will be kept open for now.
"It's a small town. We are right on the I-70 business corridor," said Cathy Gardner, owner of Ray's Tavern restaurant.
We have invested so much money. It would be devastating to us to have that pulled out from under us.
It would be easy to just zoom right by Green River and not even know it. But those who do stop and look around are in for quite a treat.
"It is an outdoor-recreation area," Gardner said.
T-shirts line the walls at Ray's Tavern, showing the river-running tradition of the town. But it's the golf course right down the road that Gardner says is just as important.
"The golf course is an economic necessity," she said.
Edge of the Cedars in Blanding, the Utah Field House in Vernal, the Territorial Statehouse in Fillmore, and the Frontier Homestead Museum in Cedar City were the others in danger of closing following the audit of the Utah State Park system.
"When we saw the report, we freaked out because it didn't match what we had as an understanding financially what was going on," said Mike McCandless, director of Emery County economic development.
McCandless says the audit didn't take into account the tens of thousands of dollars Emery County put into the golf course.
"We have invested so much money," he said. "It would be devastating to us to have that pulled out from under us."
It's a huge draw for people. It's only nine holes, but it's a huge draw for people coming into this town. They come, they eat, they stay, gas -- whatever.
Same for local businesses -- many of them mom-and-pop type shops who rely on the small traffic the golf course generates.
"It's a huge draw for people," said Keith Brady, who owns the Robbers Roost Motel. "It's only nine holes, but it's a huge draw for people coming into this town. They come, they eat, they stay, gas -- whatever."
Gardner says her restaurant could probably survive the hit, but it would be tough.
"It's not necessarily going to kill my business -- I won't have to close my doors," she said. "But it is a big part of our business."
For now, residents in Green River are hoping it's not too late to save the golf course.
"It brings people in," said McCandless. "Not huge numbers, but it's enough to basically to keep the pump moving."
Gardner says it's all about getting a chance. "We have seen a lot of boom and bust in Green River and it is a struggle to stay alive," she said.
Even though the Legislature decided to keep the parks open for now, they could have reduced hours. There is even talk of perhaps privatizing some of them.
In addition, 25 park workers might lose their jobs to save the state money.