States reach agreement with Washington on parks to find way around shutdown
They have arranged separate financing to maintain park operations
Agreements are limited, however, so states hoping government will reopen soon
Landmarks are vital for tourism, jobs; fall a key time for major attractions
The Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore have found a way around the government shutdown for now and will reopen with the help of state funding.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Friday that the state struck a deal with the National Park Service to fund Lady Liberty’s operations for the time being.
“Every day that Liberty Island is closed means we are losing visitors who would otherwise be spending at our local businesses,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Not to mention the employees who maintain the park and have been forced out of work.”
New York state’s tourism budget will fund the park and the state will pay $61,600 a day over the next several days.
According to the statement, a 2012 annual report from the National Park Service counted 3.7 million visitors to Liberty Island in 2011, generating nearly $200 million in economic activity and supporting more than 2,000 jobs.
“This is a practical and temporary solution that will lessen the pain for some businesses and communities in New York during this shutdown,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement. “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.”
The inability of Congress to approve spending for the fiscal year that began October 1 triggered a government shutdown that – along with most everything else – resulted in the closure of national monuments and parks.
More than 20,000 National Park Service employees who maintain and secure the facilities were furloughed. The nation’s 401 National Park Service sites collectively average about 715,000 visitors per day.
Arizona, South Dakota strike deal to open parks
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer also negotiated an agreement with the federal government to reopen Grand Canyon National Park as well, also using state and local funds amid the ongoing federal government shutdown.
“I’m gratified the Obama administration agreed to reverse its policy and allow Arizona to reopen Grand Canyon, Arizona’s most treasured landmark and a crucial driver of revenue to the state,” said Brewer.
Under the agreement, the state will pay the National Park Service $651,000 – $93,000 per day – to reopen Grand Canyon and fully fund park operations for up to at least seven days using state and other monies.
The state will continue to assess next steps if the shutdown has not ended in seven days.
A similar deal was struck in South Dakota in order to reopen the mountain bearing the faces of some of America’s greatest statesmen. The state government is paying $152,000 in order to keep Mount Rushmore open for 10 days, from Oct. 14 through Oct. 23.
“Visitors from around the world come to the Black Hills to see Mount Rushmore, and I’m pleased that our nation’s Shrine to Democracy will be reopened,” Gov. Dennis Daugaard said in a statement. “I appreciate the willingness of the National Park Service to partner with us to operate the monument.”
Mount Rushmore will reopen first thing Monday morning, according to the release, at a cost of $15,200 a day. The funding is expected to come from a variety of local organizations the state government partnered with to “buy a day” of operation for the monument.
Utah will reopen its five national parks as well as three other nationally run locations under a similar deal with the government.
Gov. Gary Herbert said Utah will pay the National Park Service up to $1.67 million— $166,572 per day—to reopen eight national sites in Utah for up to 10 days.
If the federal government shutdown ends before then, the state will receive a refund of unused money, a statement said.
That deal would reopen Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Zion and other parks.
California and Wyoming also have sought alternative financing solutions for their parks.
The Republican-led House has passed a series of bills to refund parts of the government, including the national parks. But the Democratic-controlled Senate demands the government be funded all at once.
A few areas mainly related to the military have been funded.