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Utah state parks break attendance records amid shutdown

(James Young)


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SALT LAKE CITY — The federal shutdown created a wild two weeks at Utah's state parks. In spite of the closure of national parks, visitation numbers at a few state parks broke records.

If there was one positive thing from the National Park shutdown, it's that a lot of people learned more about and made the effort to visit our state parks.

Most of the increases in visitation happened in southern Utah near the National Parks, but even state parks, like Antelope Island, saw a lot more visitors than usual.

"Tour bus guides were screaming for us to do tours for people to see bison and deer and things like that," said John Sullivan, assistant park manager at Antelope Island.

Antelope Island sits off the main interstate between Yellowstone and Zion National Parks. So when all of those out-of-staters couldn't get into the national parks, many of them visited Antelope Island.

"Our staff kicked it up a notch, and we were jumping on tour buses that were never scheduled to be here, giving talks and interpretive programs for the people who were missing out," Sullivan said.

"Parks have more than doubled their normal visitation," said Eugene Swalberg, spokesperson for the Utah State Parks.

Swalberg said the final October visitation numbers for all the state's parks won't be in until mid-November, but he does have some numbers from the two-week shutdown.

And they are record-breaking.


Parks have more than doubled their normal visitation.

–Eugene Swalberg, Utah State Parks spokesperson


At Dead Horse Point, near Arches and Canyonlands, 350 cars came in the day before the shutdown, but 588 cars in came the next day; and at Kodachrome Basin near Bryce Canyon, 59 cars came in the day before the shutdown, but 373 came in the next day.

"It settled down after that, but were always record-breaking days from before the shutdown," Swalberg

Gina Campbell, who works the front desk of Utah State Parks headquarters in Salt Lake, says tourists kept coming in and asking what else is there to see.

"I think the silver lining with the shutdown was our parks were all of a sudden more visible," Campbell said.

In fact, Utah State Parks honored National Park passes during the shutdown.

Swalberg said that the shutdown cost the state parks about $7,000 is lost revenue, but he feels it is a small price to pay to help visitors have positive memories of Utah.

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