Utah's national parks starting to open

Published: Friday, Oct. 11 2013 12:10 p.m. MDT

"We're just staying so happy down here we're going to pass out. That's how great it is," Syrett said Friday. "I'm walking through the hotel right now, and it's basically a ghost town because everybody's inside the park."

In Springdale just outside Zion National Park, Cook was ecstatic about the reopening news.

"Once the euphoria wears off, I think I'll get back to normal," he said.

Cook, general manager of the Best Western Zion Park Inn, said the closure has been tough on businesses in the small town.

"It's been very unnerving and frustrating for a community like ours," he said. "Right now, we're just excited about trying to salvage what we can in the month of October after the bloodletting."

October is traditionally a busy month for Springdale and helps get motels, restaurants and tour companies through the lean winter season.

If the government shutdown remains in place after Oct. 20, Herbert said Utah would consider funding on a day-to-day basis.

"We can keep it open as long as we feel necessary," he said Friday.

Utah won't get back the money it puts up to reopen the recreation sites without an act of Congress.

Members of the state's congressional delegation have initiated legislation for repayment.

"We're going to try. We'll do everything we can," said Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah. "I've assured the governor we would lead that charge, but there's no guarantee with the federal government. All the parties recognize that."

Stewart said it's money well spent even if the state isn't reimbursed. Utah will be more than repaid in the economic activity that's restarted with opening the parks and bringing tourists back, he said.

Herbert, too, said he knows the state might not see that money again. But "we're losing millions of dollars a day when they're closed, so putting out $167,000 a day to return millions into the economy certainly is a good bargain."

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said it's clearly the obligation of the federal government to operate the parks, and she wants to see the state get its taxpayers' dollars back.

Stewart said in addition to seeking reimbursement, he'll pursue legislation that would allow the state to immediately fund the national parks and be reimbursed should another federal shutdown occur.

"The reality is we'll probably find ourselves in this position again," he said. "We want to legislatively put a piece in place that brings some certainty to that situation."

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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