Trump hiring freeze hits Zion National Park; shuttles resume

Weekend shuttle service in Zion National Park begins Feb. 17 for Presidents Day; full shuttle service in the park and Springdale will resume March 11 and run through late fall, Springdale, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News

SPRINGDALE – Zion National Park is gearing up for more visitors as warmer weather approaches, an effort that has been made more difficult by President Donald Trump’s freeze on hiring federal employees.

Parking lots at Zion National Park were overflowing for the Presidents Day weekend, Zion National Park, Feb. 16, 2015 | Photo by Dan Mabbutt, St. George News

Trump issued a hiring freeze on federal civilian employees Jan. 23, ordering that no vacant positions existing as of Jan. 22 can be filled and no new positions can be created with the exception of military personnel.

Agency heads can exempt positions from the hiring freeze if needed “to meet national security or public safety responsibilities,” but uncertainty about the order and its details is causing confusion and difficulty for park managers, Zion National Park spokesman John Marciano said.

Zion relies heavily on seasonal employees to run the park during the busy summer season and typically hires 90-100 temporary workers each year, Marciano said.

Many of these seasonal employees have already been through the hiring process at Zion, but are now in limbo in the wake of Trump’s action.

“We’ve given them offers but we’ve had to retract those offers. Do they stand by and wait until we get the word, get the green light?” Marciano said. “We may not get the green light.”

The vagueness of Trump’s hiring freeze is troubling, he said, because the park relies on seasonal workers to manage the rising number of visitors.

“So it’s a further burden to us if we don’t get these people hired and on-station and trained,” Marciano said.

Popular attractions such as the Grotto and the Temple of Sinawava inside Zion National Park are full, with cars lining the roadsides, Zion National Park, Feb. 16, 2015 | Photo by Dan Mabbutt, St. George News

The park is already understaffed and the situation could worsen under the hiring freeze. Zion is among many national parks that are seeing increased visitation – more than 4 million people visited the park in 2016 and more are expected this year.

Zion Park managers and stakeholders are in the process of developing a visitor use management plan to deal with the crowds. Several options are being explored, including putting a cap on visitor numbers.

Read more: Zion National Park traffic jam: A look at ideas for limiting number of visitors

The plan will attempt to reconcile the increasing crowds with the Park Service mandate of offering a high-quality visitor experience while protecting the park’s resources for future generations.

Shuttle schedule

Zion National Park will resume shuttle service within the park on Presidents Day weekend beginning in February 2017. 

  • Shuttle buses within the park will begin operating on weekends Feb. 18-19 
  • Shuttles will leave the visitor center at 7 a.m. and travel up Zion Canyon to designated trailhead stops.
  • The last returning shuttle will leave Stop 9, at the Temple of Sinawava, at 6:45 p.m. and return to the visitor center.  
  • The same schedule will be in effect on the weekends of Feb. 25-26 and March 4-5. 
  • The in-town Springdale shuttle service will not operate during these weekends.
  • Regular shuttle service in the park and in Springdale will begin March 11 and continue through late fall.

Road construction is expected to continue in Rockville on state Route 9 from approximately 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Wait times along the construction route can be up to 15 minutes in duration.

Email: japplegate@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

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11 Comments

  • digger January 26, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    Oh deal with it??

  • Not_So_Much January 26, 2017 at 8:10 pm

    Time to get creative. Farm the transport out to private enterprise and folks will need to pay to ride (in addition to entry fee). Heck lease your shuttles to them. Next.

  • utahdiablo January 26, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    Oh Well….as a full time resident of southern Utah, we cannot bring family of friends to Zion anytime after early March anymore as the “Mighty 5” campaign has ruined the park with over visitation…as it is now we have to wait a hour to get on the shuttle bus at 8 am, then standing room only the rest of the day, so nope, let the freeze happen, and cap daily visitation

  • Utahguns January 27, 2017 at 7:09 am

    Oh sure, blame it on Trump.
    Normal everyday business owners have had to cope with the everchanging fluctuations of the economy, and they’ve done it without federal help.
    I assume the park management has the where-with-all to manage the parks operations and in doing so should be able to do just fine with the increased visitation –” more than 4 million people this year”. That’s a lot of money taken at the entrance gates not to mention the taxes we pay to support national parks.

    Just resort back to your Business 101 classes, pull up your pants and do your job.

  • wickeman11 January 27, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    if you dive in deeper than the headline and read the article, you’ll see that Zion, like many national parks and private businesses that experience seasonal spikes and lulls in business (Brian Head ski resort and surrounding hotels for example), employs a large staff of seasonal workers to work the peak season, but has to lay them off when there aren’t many visitors. Then they have to re-hire before it gets busy again so that everyone can be trained etc. This new hiring freeze means none of the seasonal positions can be filled, and busy season is coming. But the park won’t be prepared to deal with the high volume of tourists. What a …;. I feel for the year round staff who must feel like there’s a runaway train bearing down on them
    Ed. ellipsis.

  • wickeman11 January 27, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    And although as locals it sucks to see the overcrowding at the park, we can’t just wave a magic wand and stop on a dime to cancel the millions of trips planned to the park and the surrounding area. Nor can we afford to. Have any idea what the hordes of tourists spend in this area while they’re here? Here’s a link to statistics from 11 years ago- it was huge then, and has gotten much bigger since then.

    https://www.nps.gov/zion/learn/management/upload/Zion%20Economic%20Impact%20Study_2006.pdf

  • jillyjill January 27, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    Jesus people, get over yourselves and think about the future of our grandchildren! Our civil rights and resources are under attack! Unless you are making a cool million or more a year, pull your head out of your collective asses and understand that if you want that park and all its visitors to continue to dump tourism dollars into our state (which translates to jobs all over the area), help protect our parks. No fossil fuel, privatization, mineral extraction, grazing, or whatever is going to pump the kind of regular cash this beauyiful part of the world puts in our businesses, taxes, hotels, restaurants, etc,. The lack of comprehension of what is st stake here among most of these comments is truly alarming.

  • comments January 28, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    They’ll whine about it for awhile, but they are cleaver and will figure something out.

  • ladybugavenger January 28, 2017 at 10:20 pm

    Did I miss something? I did not receive one dime from the 4 million visitors to Zion. I must be doing something wrong. Good news is that I won’t lose anything from the freeze.

    The park will figure it out and they will get the help, people are smart and can figure things out. Shift some money around and stuff like that. And then say, Oops, should have budgeted better last year.

    Where did all the money from the 4 million visitors go?

  • ladybugavenger January 28, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    Temporary workers should be excluded from the freeze, the aren’t government workers 😉

  • wickeman11 January 29, 2017 at 10:19 am

    If you live in Washington County, you benefited from the park visitors at the very least indirectly. They contribute to local businesses owned by or employing you or your neighbors- creating jobs, revenue and tax income at restaurants, hotels, motels, gas stations, retail stores, car and ATM rentals, movie theaters, etc. Or else the money provided to those businesses is then spent elsewhere in the community.

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