Arizona and Utah have made the decision to keep their national parks open in the event of a federal government shutdown. This decision was made to ensure that access to iconic parks like the Grand Canyon and Zion Valley is not hindered, and that visitors can continue to spend money near the parks, benefiting state economies. The economic impact of the national parks is significant, with every $1 invested in the National Park Service supporting over $15 in economic activity. The potential loss of nearly 1 million visitors and up to $70 million in revenue for gateway communities during a shutdown demonstrates the importance of keeping the parks open.
Governor Katie Hobbs of Arizona and Governor Spencer Cox of Utah have acknowledged the economic benefits of the national parks and have therefore decided to use state funds to keep the parks operating on a basic level. While the state funds may not cover all normal operating costs, they will still allow visitors to access the parks. This investment by the states is aimed at cushioning tourism-dependent communities and ensuring that businesses, hotels, and restaurants near the parks can remain open. However, the National Parks Conservation Association has highlighted the risks of keeping the parks open without sufficient staff and resources, as witnessed during the previous shutdown in 2018-2019, which resulted in damage, overflowing trash and human waste, vandalism, and illegal use of off-road vehicles at some sites.
The decision of Arizona and Utah to financially support their national parks during a potential government shutdown underscores the economic significance of these parks. While the responsibility to fund and keep the parks open should fall on the federal government, the states have taken action due to the substantial impact on local economies. The nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association emphasizes the need for Congress to fulfill its responsibility in funding and supporting the parks. In contrast, some other states, such as Washington and California, have opted not to provide additional funding or staff to national parks in the event of a shutdown. The economic repercussions of park closures could be significant for communities reliant on tourism, highlighting the importance of finding a resolution to keep the parks open and fully functional.