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Shutdown impacting businesses that rely on national park visitors

Published: Tuesday, July 28 2015 12:30 a.m. MDT

The Kodachrome Basin at 5,800 feet elevation, east of Bryce Canyon National Park, features surreal rock chimneys. It’s day two of the partial government shutdown, and businesses that rely on visitors to the nation’s national parks are already feeling the effects of the closures. (Bob Downing, Akron Beacon Journal/MCT) The Kodachrome Basin at 5,800 feet elevation, east of Bryce Canyon National Park, features surreal rock chimneys. It’s day two of the partial government shutdown, and businesses that rely on visitors to the nation’s national parks are already feeling the effects of the closures. (Bob Downing, Akron Beacon Journal/MCT)

BRYCE CANYON — It’s day two of the partial government shutdown, and businesses that rely on visitors to the nation’s national parks are already feeling the effects of the closures.

Driver after driver had to turn around Wednesday after finding out Bryce Canyon National Park is closed.

Rod Syrett, owner of Ruby’s Inn on the edge of Bryce Canyon National Park, just watched them.

“If the park is not there, people aren’t going to come,” he said.

Syrett remembers the last time the park was closed because of a government shutdown.

"We jumped from 120 rooms a night down to 10 rooms a night, and it just killed us,” he said.

People are in town now, but most were in the middle of their tour group trips.

"We've received lots of cancellations, in the hundreds,” said Lance Syrett, Ruby's general manager.

Ruby's Inn already has lost tens of thousands of dollars in planned revenue, Lance Syrett said. The closure couldn’t have come at a worse time. The inn stockpiles September and October dollars to get it through the leaner winter months.

"If this thing drags out, it's literally going to be hundreds of thousands of dollars per day that our business and the other businesses here in the immediate area are going to lose,” Lance Syrett said.

If businesses continue to lose that income, it could mean layoffs.

Bryce Canyon Mayor David Tebbs said nearly 80 percent of the 190 residents in his town directly rely on the park for income.

"It's hard because we're family out here,” Tebbs said. “We go to church together. We go to school together. Our kids all play together."

National Park Service workers and rangers were at the roadblock, on their own time, to give tourists information on what else there is to see and do in the area. But still, a lot of people paid a lot of money to visit Bryce Canyon.

“Most of those groups are international,” said Lance Syrett, “and they’re on a 15-day itinerary. Usually, if they come to see us, then they’re on a national park itinerary. So, 15 days, they might have been scheduled to see maybe 10 or 12 national parks. At this point, they’re not going to see any or them.”

Workers at Ruby’s Inn put together a shuttle to take visitors to a private piece of the park. It doesn’t show the main attraction, but Lance Syrett knows tourists didn't come all this way to look at horses, buy ice cream and shop for rocks.

"They just can't believe this is happening, and honestly, you have to laugh because if you didn't laugh, you would cry," he said.

The National Parks Conservation Association estimates businesses in tourist communities lose $30 million a day nationwide due to the shutdown. Zion National Park expects to turn away 10,000 visitors a day during the closure, costing $50,000 in daily revenue. About 200 park workers have been furloughed because of the government shutdown.

Email: acabrero@deseretnews.com

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