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Only 1 Utah national park to be staffed as 2019 begins

By Brady McCombs, Associated Press | Posted - Dec 28th, 2018 @ 6:04pm



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Only one of Utah's five national parks will be staffed after the new year as the state pulls back funding during the partial U.S. government shutdown, officials said Friday.

A nonprofit will pay about $2,000 to $2,500 a day to keep Zion National Park open Jan. 1-5 with skeleton staffing and services such as public restrooms, clean bathrooms and trash collection, Utah Office of Tourism managing director Vicki Varela said.

The other four parks — Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef — will remain open but without those services. Those parks are expected to have fewer visitors than Zion, Varela said.

The state has paying about up to $7,500 a day since Dec. 22 to keep Zion, Arches and Bryce staffed through Dec. 31. The decision to leave Arches and Bryce unstaffed was made in consultation with park superintendents based on a calculation of how to make the state money go farthest and help the most visitors, she said.

Zion, known for its red rock vistas and spectacular slot canyons, is still slated to get 4,000 to 5,000 visitors per day next week, Varela said. The nonprofit footing the bill to keep staffing at Zion is called The Zion Forever Project.

She and state officials will reassess the situation after Jan. 5, Varela said.

Varela called it frustrating that visitors aren't getting the full national park experience during the shutdown, and said she hopes "sanity returns sometime soon in D.C."

The weeklong impasse comes as Democrats, who take control of the House on Jan. 3, refuse to give President Donald Trump the money he's demanding to build a border wall with Mexico

"The natural resources to be protected, the visitor experience needs to be protected," Varela said. "All we're able to do is a patchwork job. . .. You can't possibly have that full national park experience without full staffing."

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