“I guess I’m the culprit there,” Gardner said.
Springdale Mayor Pat Cluff, whose town abuts Zion, said she was “elated” when the park began to reopen Friday morning and hoped that word was getting out to thousands of tourists who had been canceling visits during a traditionally busy season for her town’s hotels, restaurants and art galleries.
The mayor said the town has lost 40 to 60 percent of its business during the government shutdown. A typical October day brings 10,000 visitors to the park, usually a more affluent group than during the hot summer months, she said. The town of 527 year-round residents has 950 hotel rooms just outside the park.
During the last series of federal shutdowns in 1995 and 1996, only one national park — Grand Canyon — was allowed to reopen after then-Gov. Fife Symington (R) mobilized the state National Guard and threatened to physically take over parts of the South Rim. Bruce Babbitt, then the Interior secretary, negotiated an agreement under which Arizona raised state and private funds to operate the park for a month.
Rob Arnberger, who served as Grand Canyon’s superintendent between 1994 and 2000, said he received a call from Jarvis at the beginning of the week “trying to recollect what happened” in the mid-1990s so Interior could include the same legal requirements in any agreement struck this time around. Arnberger noted that federal officials insisted on being shielded from any legal liability during the shutdown and insisted an entire park — rather than portions of it — be reopened.
Arnberger, who hails from a three-generation Park Service family, said he was disappointed that some of the politicians pushing hardest for the parks seem to value only the tourist dollars they draw. He noted that while Brewer pushed to reopen the Grand Canyon, she paid scant attention to Arizona’s nearly two dozen other national parks.
“What about Petrified Forest National Park? What about Saguaro National Park?” he asked. “I find it distressful the discussion of parks focuses only on their economic value.”
Herbert, however, takes another lesson from the experience.
“What we’ve proved here in Utah is that if people will sit down and resolve their problems rather than call each other names, you can get things done in a way that’s the proverbial win-win,” he said. “That’s what they’re forgetting about in Washington.”
Darryl Fears contributed to this report.