Some of America's best-known national treasures, closed in the government shutdown, will reopen Saturday after at least five states gave the U.S. government money for National Park Service operations.
The Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore will reopen after Arizona, New York state and South Dakota on Friday agreed to pay for National Park Service workers to temporarily operate the parks, the Park Service said in a statement. Utah, the first state to accept Thursday's U.S. offer to reopen parks in exchange for state payments, will have eight national parks and monuments reopened by Saturday. Colorado paid the U.S. to reopen Rocky Mountain National Park.
The Oct. 1 government shutdown forced the furlough of 20,000 Park Service workers and closed all 401 national parks and monuments, souring tourism and ruining vacations. At least four governors, citing the economic impact, asked to reopen the parks in their states. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell agreed to allow states to pay for park reopenings, but said she wouldn't surrender park operations to states.
Jewell called deals to reopen parks "a practical and temporary solution that will lessen the pain for some businesses and communities." She said the Park Service is negotiating deals with other states that want to reopen national parks.
"We want to reopen all of our national parks as quickly possible for everyone to enjoy and call on Congress to pass a clean continuing resolution to open the government," Jewell said in Friday's statement.
Grand Canyon National Park will reopen Saturday after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) agreed to fork over $651,000 to fund operations through Oct. 18, the Park Service said. The Statue of Liberty National Monument will operate through Oct. 17 after New York's $369,300 contribution. South Dakota paid $152,000 for the Park Service to operate Mount Rushmore from Oct. 14 to Oct. 23. Utah gave the U.S. $1.67 million to reopen eight national areas, including Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion national parks.
Utah had estimated its national parks would pump $100 million to the state's economy in October.
"I was so anxious to do something, because this is a kind of seasonal work for people in Utah," Gov. Gary Herbert (R) told USA Today. "You miss October -- it's not like you can make it up in January. It's like missing the Christmas holiday season."
The Park Service agreements with states stipulate that they may seek repayment once the shutdown ends, but Congress is under no obligation to make refunds.