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Utah, Colorado reopen national parks, others eye options

  • In this Oct. 9, 2013, photo tourists point out landmarks visible from the closed gate to Zion National Park which remains closed due to the government shutdown near Springdale, Utah. (AP Photo/The Salt Lake Tribune, Trent Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Obama administration's willingness to reopen national parks shuttered by the government shutdown came with a big caveat: States must foot the bill with money they likely won't see again.

So far, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Arizona and New York have jumped at the deal. Governors in other states were trying to gauge Friday what would be the bigger economic hit — paying to keep the parks operating or losing the tourist money that flows when the scenic attractions are open.

South Dakota and several corporate donors worked out a deal with the National Park Service to reopen Mount Rushmore beginning Monday. Gov. Dennis Daugaard said it will cost $15,200 a day to pay the federal government to run the landmark in the Black Hills.

He said he wired four days' worth of the donations on Friday.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will pay $61,600 a day to fully fund Park Service personnel and keep the Statue of Liberty open. Arizona officials said a deal reached Friday will mean visitors should be able to return to Grand Canyon National Park on Saturday.

In Utah, federal workers rushed to reopen five national parks for 10 days after the state sent $1.67 million to the U.S. government with the hope of saving its lucrative tourist season.

Zion National Park superintendent Jock Whitworth said staff members began opening gates and removing barriers and expected to have the park fully operational Saturday.

"This is a practical and temporary solution that will lessen the pain for some businesses and communities in Utah during this shutdown," Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement.

It was welcome news for beleaguered shop owners in the small town of Springdale adjacent to Zion. Hotels have been vacant and rental and retail shops have seen sales plummet during the shutdown.

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