States Shell Out Big Bucks to Open National Parks

Grand Canyon National Park is among those opened with state funds. Grand Canyon National Park is among those opened with state funds. Rob van Esch/

Over the weekend, some nature lovers got the chance to wander the great federally funded outdoors again. Thanks to deals brokered with the federal government, some states dipped into their own cash to open their popular national parks, which closed its doors to visitors when the government shut down Oct. 1.

After a push from several governors, the Obama administration announced late last week that it would allow states to use their own money to pay for National Park Service operations. Shuttered parks were costing millions of dollars of revenue a day, state officials had argued. But keeping them open, even for just a week, isn't cheap. Still, for some states, salvaging a peak tourism season is worth it.

The decision is costing Utah the prettiest penny, at $1.67 million to keep five parks—Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef, which opened Monday—running for 10 days. Next is Arizona, which will pay $651,000 dailoy to fund park operations at the Grand Canyon, which opened Saturday for at least a week. New York will pay $61,600 a day to finance the Statue of Liberty, which opened Sunday, until the shutdown ends. The governor's office had said more than 10,000 people were turned away each day that the popular site was closed.

Funding operations at Rocky Mountain National Park, which reopened on Saturday, will cost Colorado $362,700 for 10 days. Park operations at Mount Rushmore National Memorial will cost South Dakota $15,200 a day. The memorial saw 3,000 visitors when it reopened Monday, which state officials called average for a snowy October weekday.

For some Western states, however, opening their famous national parks is not an option. Wyoming "cannot use state money to do the work of the federal government," said a spokesperson for the governor. With the threat of default just days away, California officials said using state money to finance park operations is too risky. Nevada officials say the state can't afford to pay for parks because they're focused on budgets for food-stamp programs, unemployment insurance, and other needs.

A group of House members, including 14 Republicans and one Democrat, have proposed legislation that would require the federal government to reimburse states who opt to use their own money to run national parks during the shutdown. But with Washington now focused on the debt-ceiling deadline—and Senate Democrats' continuing disapproval of other similar House bills providing only partial funding—the bill has nowhere to go but congressional limbo.

(Image via Rob van Esch/

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.