In an inspiring show of support for Zion National Park, four entities have teamed to fund a minimal level of staffing and services in the park during the ongoing federal government shutdown. According to Lyman Hafen, Executive Director of the Zion National Park Forever Project, the State of Utah, Washington County, and the City of St. George, will participate equally with the non-profit Zion Forever Project in funding some visitor services in the park from January 6 through January 12, if the shutdown continues.
“The hard fact is that the park is mandated to remain accessible to the public during this shutdown,” Hafen said, “yet staffing and services are not funded. So the park is left with the catch 22 of welcoming thousands of visitors a day with the visitor center closed, little or no means to provide sanitation services like restrooms, trash collection, other custodial services, and basically an untenable situation.” He said the funding pledged by these four entities is not only remarkable in its make-up, but will assure one more week of minimum visitor services in the park that would not otherwise be possible.
“When the shutdown began on December 22, 2018,” Hafen said “the State of Utah was poised to step in and provide money for a basic level of funding in the park through the end of the year. They did so, and it made a striking difference for the park, its visitors and for the southern Utah economy.” When those funds ran out on December 31, Hafen said his group, the Zion Forever Project, was ready to step in and fund the same level from January 1 to January 5. The Zion Forever Project is the park’s official non-profit partner that raises funds for Zion through earned income in the park stores and through direct fundraising.
“As we’ve drawn closer to the end of this week,” Hafen said, “it is amazing and heartening to see how the State of Utah stepped back into the picture and helped assemble this four-way coalition in a matter of hours to buy more time for the welfare of Zion National Park and to assure a better experience for the thousands of visitors who continue to come to Zion every day.” Hafen said it was beyond anything he had ever imagined, how these entities stepped up with a sincere desire to do the best thing for the park at such a difficult time. “Vicki Varela, managing director of the State Office of Tourism; Dean Cox, Washington County Commissioner; and Mayor Jon Pike of the City of St. George, each reached out in a short, crucial window of time to see how they could best make a difference in this situation,” Hafen said. “It speaks volumes about the importance of Zion National Park to our community.”
The coalition has made it possible to fund these services next week, Hafen explained. “The heroic park service staff who’ve been keeping the bare-bones operation going in the park have been taxed to the limit,” he said. “They are running on fumes. We’re glad we can now give them a little more backup as they keep those basic services going in the park.”
Hafen said the group is simply trying to make the best of a bad situation for the park and its visitors, realizing this shutdown could go on for a long time. “If it does go on,” Hafen said, “the park managers, with support of these partners, will be faced with some hard decisions as to how to best look out for the park and provide a degree of services to the visitors who will continue to come.” Hafen said there’s no simple answer to this situation. “But the fact that our State, Washington County, and St. George City would deem this so important is a sign to everyone of what Zion National Park means to the lives and the livelihoods of all of us in Utah,” he said.
- The State of Utah, Washington County, the City of St. George, and the Zion National Park Forever Project, will jointly fund a minimal level of operations in Zion National Park from January 6 through January 12, 2019.
- Each entity has pledged approximately $1,000 a day for the seven-day period to allow the visitor center to be open, basic visitor and safety information to be shared, some restrooms to be open, trash collection and other custodial services in the canyon, and other related basic staffing and support.
- The park is mandated to remain accessible to visitors during this government shutdown, and thousands of visitors continue to enter the park each day. The above-mentioned services would not be available if not for this funding support.
- This historic coalition of support for Zion National Park represents the love, passion and concern our State and region have for this national treasure. These efforts will help reduce the possibility of degradation to the park and provide for a better experience for those who visit next week.
- This initiative helps create a better and more safe situation for visitors in Zion National Park through January 12, but is only a fraction of what operations and services would normally be at this time. If the shutdown continues beyond January 12, Zion and all our national parks will fall deeper into jeopardy.