Tourists brave dicey conditions to visit national parks during shutdown

News

MOAB, Utah (ABC4 News) – It’s the third week of the government shutdown, and Utah’s national parks have limited access at best. Some are completely closed, while others lack services and only have a few open roads. In eastern Utah, the weather pattern also contributed to losing additional access to Arches National Park and Canyonlands, but that has not stopped tourists.

“I almost slipped a few times, and I don’t think I had cell service at that point, so it was a little nerve-wracking,” said Susie Walden, a visitor who drove from Ohio to Utah.

Snow covered roads, which quickly turned to ice, were never cleared. The government shut down means no plowing or treating trails or sidewalks. At Arches National Park, the gate is closed, and the nearest viewpoint is a three-mile snow-covered hike from the visitors center.

“We’ve got grown men in Washington D.C. and they don’t care about us,” said Bob Septersima from Columbus, Ohio.

The trek on foot won’t get any visitors near the famous landforms or landscapes, but people are still doing it. Tourists say they are frustrated with shutdown restrictions and had trips planned for months. 

“It seems like a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m already out here, I don’t know the next time, I’ll be in Utah, this is the first time I’ve come to Utah who knows when I will be back,” said Walden.

Visitors of Arches tell ABC4 News the same thing, the shutdown didn’t cancel their trips but it definitely altered their itinerary to include state parks which remain open in the southern and eastern part of the state. 

“It’s never bad to bring in a few extra dollars during the slow time,” Eugene Swalberg, the public information officer of Utah State Parks said Tuesday.

The peak time for our parks is the summer months, but the shutdown has prompted a significant uptick in visitors, doubling winter visitation at state parks neighboring national ones.

Swalberg says the state was ready to handle the influx, and that the department was ready to step in and help. The Utah Office of Tourism reached out to Kodachrome Basin State Park when the shutdown was announced and asked park managers to de-winterize their campground and open it up for folks traveling through the region.

Swalberg also told ABC4 News that state employees feel for all those impacted by the furloughs. He said outdoor agencies all fall under the same umbrella and when one hurts, they all do.

“We wish the government shut down didn’t have to happen. It’s a reality and it’s here, but we want to be part of the solution and give people a place to enjoy the outdoors,” said Swalberg.

For more information about visiting Utah’s state parks, visit https://stateparks.utah.gov

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Utah VP Debate

More Utah Debate