October 11, 2013

Feds to let states pay to open some national parks

Governors in at least four states have asked for authority to reopen national parks within their borders because of the economic impacts caused by their closure.

By Matthew Daly
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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This Oct. 3, 2013, photo shows a sign at the south entrance to Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz. October is normally a peak month for tourism in many parts of the West.

The Associated Press

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Figures compiled by a coalition of retired park service workers indicate that some 700,000 people a day would have been visiting the parks and that the surrounding areas are losing $76 million in visitor spending per day.

The park service said it is losing $450,000 per day in revenue from entrance fees and other in-park expenditures, such as campground fees and boat rentals.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said the Obama administration was playing “political games” with national parks.

“Why now, after more than a week of refusing to allow states to pay to keep national parks open, is the Obama Administration suddenly reversing course?” Hastings asked. “It appears they are truly just making this up as they go along.”

States and communities whose economic livelihoods are tied to national parks “deserve better than this administration’s political games to make this shutdown as painful as possible,” Hastings said.

In Wyoming, Gov. Matt Mead’s office said the state would not pay to reopen two heavily visited national parks or the Devil’s Tower national monument.

“Wyoming cannot bail out the federal government and we cannot use state money to do the work of the federal government,” Mead spokesman Renny MacKay said Thursday.

Meanwhile, the park service said it is reopening to tourists a highway pull-off area that can be used to view and photograph Mount Rushmore from a distance following complaints that the agency was intentionally blocking viewing areas. Hundreds of tourists complained that park rangers blocked drivers from pulling over to take photos of the South Dakota monument, which features the stone-carved faces of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

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