NPS waives entrance fees, Zion National Park closes lodge amid COVID-19 concerns

Southern Utah News

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File

SPRINGDALE, Utah (ABC4 News) – As Zion National Park works to closely monitor a potential coronavirus outbreak in Southern Utah, park officials tell ABC4 News they’ve decided to close all Zion Lodge operations starting Friday through May 21, 2020.

“We are continuing to listen to the CDC and local guidance in our efforts to remain open yet provide safe facilities and make changes as needed,” spokeswoman Aly Baltrus said in a statement. “Over the past week, we set up a virtual visitor center where visitors can use their own phone to call or email a park ranger during regular business hours for instant trip planning assistance.”

The National Park Service has waived its entrance fees for its remaining open parks this week based on the recommendation of federal officials stating the action would facilitate the public enjoying the outdoors while practicing social distancing. 

On Tuesday, Zion National Park suspended its shuttle operation after noticing the long shuttle lines and crowding on the shuttles, allowing visitors to drive up the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive to access trails until the 457 parking spaces in the main canyon fills.

Park officials have not determined at this time when the shuttle service will resume. 

As parking spaces become available, most likely between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., park officials announced the road would open intermittently to allow more visitors. 

“The health and safety of people visiting and working at Zion National Park is our priority,” Baltrus said. “We are working with the National Park Service of Public Health and the U.S. Public Health Service to closely monitor the coronavirus situation.” 

Park and concession staff are working to maintain clean and healthy facilities in parks in accordance with CDC guidance.

Park ranger Eleanor Siebers told ABC4 News she suspended the park’s volunteer program: all groups as well as their individual volunteers from the local area for their safety. 

In lieu of staffed buildings, park officials are creating virtual visitor centers and putting all wilderness permits online. Park rangers will be available to answer phone calls and emails during regular business hours, with contact information included on signs throughout the park. 

All visitor contact stations are closed until further notice because of safety and health concerns, including the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, Human History Museum, and Kolob Canyons Visitor Center, officials say.

The NPS urges visitors to do their part when visiting a park and to follow CDC guidance to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Visitors are asked to take responsibility for their own safety. NPS Public Health Service Officers recommend that everyone should take the following routine precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water or not available, use >60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • When you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or do so with your elbow. Dispose of the tissue and wash your hands again.
  • As much as possible, keep 6 feet of separation between yourself and others to reduce the potential spread of infection.
  • Most important, if you experience flu symptoms or any serious infection or virus, stay home to avoid exposing others.

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