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Record attendance at Zion National Park helps businesses


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Even with a down economy, businesses in one Utah town are doing quite well. That's because their economy has been better than ever thanks to Zion National Park.

For the past seven years, Grant Holkeboer has been working at Oscar's Café in Springdale, but he's never seen it as busy as it was in 2008. "In the summertime, these restaurants, you couldn't even sit outside here because lines were going out the doors," he said.

Even in a down economy, Oscar's did well. "Everybody in this area did really good," Hokeboer said.

That's because Zion National Park, which is just down the road, set a new visitation record: 2,700,000 people visited Zion last year, breaking the old record by about 12,000 set in 2004.

"We think its certainly a milestone," said park ranger Ron Terry. "We weren't really expecting to have a record year, so it was surprising to us. But we think it's wonderful."

Terry thought the economy and high prices would have kept people away, but it turns out, most of the visitors were from states just a few hours drive away. "The three top ones are California, Utah and Nevada," he said.

Park officials are optimistic about this year, but they also know, unlike 2008 where gas prices kept visitors within a certain area, the economy may keep them home altogether. But Holkeboer doesn't think so. He's thinking 2009 will be even bigger.

"People are always going to come to a national park, and they have to eat," Holkeboer said. Many others hope he's right.

2009 is also Zion's 100th birthday, and with lots of programs and activities planned, park officials think lots of people will be visiting again this year.

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com

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Alex Cabrero

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