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Arches, Canyonlands visitor centers to reopen amid government shutdown

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UPDATE: Arches and Canyonlands national parks received snowfall Thursday night into Friday morning, which has limited the reopening of the main park roads, park officials said in a tweet. Visitors at the parks may still experience some closures, officials said.

MOAB — Thanks to a private donation, visitor centers at Arches and Canyonlands national parks will reopen Friday, park officials said on Twitter on Thursday.

The Canyonlands Natural History Association made a donation that will allow the Arches Visitor Center and the Island in the Sky Visitor Center at Canyonlands to be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily starting Friday, officials said.

The roads and sidewalks are also being cleared at the parks, officials said. Utah Department of Transportation crews were plowing roads in Arches and the northern part of Canyonlands on Thursday afternoon, according to UDOT spokesman John Gleason.

"These national parks are part of our state’s identity and it’s important that the roads are cleared, that they’re safe for people to travel on," Gleason said.

UDOT officials saw the need for snow removal in the parks, he said. They worked with the governor's office and the Utah Office of Tourism to provide the service to the parks.

"At the end of the day it’s not about the money, it’s about doing what’s right," Gleason said.

The main road in Arches National Park closed Dec. 31 after a snowstorm blanketed the area. The National Park Service has been unable to provide some services, including snow removal, due to the ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government.

Visitors to Arches and Canyonlands should expect winter conditions and come prepared for roads and trails to be snowy or icy, officials said. Hikers should bring traction devices if they plan to hit the trails at the parks.

Due to the shutdown, park websites and social media accounts are not being monitored regularly.

Earlier Thursday, Utah Department of Transportation officials said agency crews were meeting with National Park Service rangers to “work out arrangements that will get roads plowed” in the two parks, as well as Capitol Reef National Park, according to a tweet from the agency.

Gleason said UDOT offered snow removal services to all five of Utah's national parks. Right now, Bryce Canyon has funding to provide its own snow removal services, he said. Capitol Reef officials said they would take the help for the next snowstorm, but there was not an immediate need Thursday, according to Gleason.

Roads are clear at Zion and the southern portions of Canyonlands, Gleason added.

It will cost $15-25,000 per storm for UDOT to clear snow at each of the parks, which will come out of the agency's snow removal budget, Gleason said. UDOT will plan to ask for a reimbursement for the funds they spend, he added.

Snow removal on Utah's highways and other state roads is still the top priority for UDOT, but the park roads are also a priority, he said.

"First and foremost, safety is the primary concern," Gleason said. "We have the resources, and it’s the right thing to do."

Contributing: Sean Moody, KSL TV

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