PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard is considering the federal government's offer Thursday to let the state use its own money to reopen Mount Rushmore National Memorial during the government shutdown, but he first wants to see how much that would cost.
Federal officials said they will allow states to pay to reopen some national parks that were closed because of the shutdown.
"The governor is open-minded to it. He really appreciates the federal government's willingness to evaluate other options. When we get the numbers, he'll consider it more fully," Dusty Johnson, Daugaard's chief of staff, said Thursday.
"The fact they're willing to consider working with state governments, that's a good thing," Johnson said.
Daugaard earlier offered to use state employees to keep Mount Rushmore open. But Johnson said the federal government is only offering to let the state pay for having federal employees go back to work at the Black Hills mountain carved with the faces of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
"We've got plenty of folks who know how to run a park and great law enforcement agents who understand how to do law enforcement in a park setting," Johnson said.
Meanwhile, the National Park Service is reopening a highway pull-out area from where tourists can view and photograph Mount Rushmore. Hundreds of tourists had complained that Park Service rangers placed cones along a highway to prevent them from pulling over to take photos of the iconic landmark, the Rapid City Journal reported.
Patricia Trap, deputy director of the National Park Service's Midwest region, said the agency never intended to ruin anyone's view of the monument.
The agency has a limited number of rangers available during the shutdown, so areas that could not be monitored were blocked with cones for public safety purposes, she said.
Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com