Crowds return to Zion as park reopens despite government shutdown

Posted at 7:55 PM, Oct 12, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-12 21:56:51-04

SPRINGDALE, Utah – Lines of happy tourists waited to get into Zion National Park on Saturday, and it’s a crowd the town of Springdale hasn’t seen since before the government shut down 11 days ago.

Since the announcement of the park’s re-opening on Friday, businesses have tried to spread the word, hoping tourists whose plans were spoiled would come back.

“We have customers out the door,” said Café Soleil creative project manager Elsie West. “Which we’re thrilled about because that’s normal business for us.”

Café Soleil sits just a few hundred feet from the gate of the park. West said it was grim during the shutdown, as customers and employees wondered if and when the park would re-open.

“We were trying to keep our spirits up,” West said. “But it was definitely, noticeably different.”

Almost all Springdale businesses reported losses during the 10-day shutdown, but Saturday, business appears on its way back to normal.

Ben Patel is the general manager of the Historic Zion Lodge. He said he’s been able to recover some reservations, and people are re-booking after news of the park reopening spread. But he said it will take more than that to recover from all the cancellations during that time.

The park has only been open less than a day at this point, so it’s still too early to tell what kind of an economic impact it will have on business in Springdale. But business owners said the foot traffic alone is enough to get people excited.

“It’s busy here,” said St. George Resident Krista Palmer. “I don’t know if that’s tourists who had plans to be here anyway and it happens to be open, or if a lot of folks like us are taking the opportunity to make a day of it.”

Saturday, the park opened with full access to campgrounds, the lodge and the shuttle system. Zion Park Motel front desk manager Sharon Felton said those simple things are raising the spirits of people in town.

“When you see the shuttle go by, it’s nice because you know the families are back to work,” Felton said.

The deal signed by the governor keeps the parks open for another 10 days, business owners said they remain hopeful a permanent resolution can be made before that deal runs out.