Utahns, tourists pleased by plan to reopen Utah national parks

Posted at 9:45 PM, Oct 10, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-10 23:45:39-04

SPRINGDALE, Utah - Business owners in Springdale breathed a collective sigh of relief Thursday on hearing the news of the state being allowed to reopen the national parks.

Springdale mayor Pat Cluff said the government shutdown has taken a toll on business, and bit on morale. So the news that Zion National Park could open as early as Friday is a light at the end of a tunnel.

“I was so relieved,” Cluff said. “I mean, our people can get back to normal. First of all, our neighbors would go back to work, and hopefully businesses can get back their clientele.”

Almost all Springdale businesses reported losses after the shutdown, especially restaurants and hotels. Despite a strong push to redirect tourists, many canceled plans to vacation in Southern Utah.

“It was exciting,” said Zion Village general manager Nate Wells. “There’s been a little bit of a dark cloud just thinking about the park being shut down just across the river here. But yeah, it’s fantastic news.”

The gates blocking the entrance to Zion National Park have been locked for close to 10 days. Business owners said the question that remains unanswered is if they were to open Friday, would it be enough to salvage the rest of the season?

“I think that it’ll take a concerted effort to bring people back through here,” Wells said. “We’re definitely trying to do our part to spread the word.”

Tourists are just as excited. For some it comes too late, but others hold out hope they’ll actually get to hike the trails before the vacation ends.

“We were excited,” said Becky Schwimmer, who is visiting from Dallas, Texas. “We were hoping that it would happen, we figured, that’s why we came here to Springdale. We thought we’d be close to parks in case they did open up.”

The extended shutdown began to take its toll on local governments. Many counties, including Washington County, talked about civil disobedience as a way to take back the national parks, both commissioners and Cluff are glad it didn’t come to that.

“It’s really a relief, and I’m sure it will be for many people,” Cluff said. “And hopefully people who want to recreate will think of us again.”