States that ran parks during the shutdown will have to lobby Congress to be repaid

October 19, 2013

The Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island on Oct. 13, 2013. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

 

A smattering of states from around the country will have to lobby Congress if they want to be repaid for running national parks during the federal government shutdown.

Ten days into the shutdown, the Interior Department, which runs the national parks, gave states the option to pay to reopen parks closed due to the shutdown. Six states took advantage of it. But they won’t get repaid unless Congress approves it.

“The funds that came from the states to open the parks were considered donations,” said Mike Litterst, the head spokesman for the National Park Service. The funding bill that ended the shutdown didn’t include instructions on how to deal with the park funding, so the states will have to go to Congress if they want to get their money back.

The lost funds should come as no surprise to the states, Litterst said. “That was all very clearly discussed in the negotiations.”

The opportunity to reopen parks was critical in some states, where they can have a significant economic benefit to local economies.

Utah spent the most money to reopen some sites. It took advantage of the opportunity almost immediately, ponying up $1.6 million to run eight national park sites for 10 days. But the shutdown ended after six of those days, so it will get some of its money refunded. If spread out evenly by day, that means Utah’s final financial hit was about $999,000.

Colorado was also quick to take up the Interior on its offer in order to reopen Rocky Mountain National Park, spending about $218,000 over six days.

New York paid roughly $308,000 to reopen the Statue of Liberty for five days while Arizona paid $465,000 to keep the Grand Canyon National Park running for the same duration.

South Dakota shelled out about $45,600 to open Mount Rushmore for three days. Tennessee took a hit of about $61,000 to open the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for just one day.

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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