SPRINGDALE – The leaders of the Zion National Park gateway community of Springdale gathered at the park entrance station at 8 a.m. on the first day of the federal government shutdown to get the word out that Springdale is not shut down, even though Zion is.
The national park entry station was staffed by Park Rangers who told every car: “The park is closed today. You can use this road to drive through to the other side, but don’t stop for hiking or anything like that.”
Mark Chambers, a member of the Springdale Town Council and a candidate for mayor of Springdale, said the federal shutdown, “is a bad idea, however, Springdale is unique in that there is plenty do around here.”
But getting this message out is turning out to be an uphill battle.
According to business owners in Springdale, there already has been a severe impact on Springdale business and it will get worse.
“We lost some coach business last night which accounts for a significant amount of business,” said Mike Marriott, manager of the Switchback Grill & Trading Co. and Jack’s Sports Grill. “If the shutdown continues, we’ll continue to see many of our larger groups cancel. Because it’s the end of the season, they’re not going to reschedule. It will be a substantial hit for us.”
Marriott said the worst is still to come because many people are still coming to Zion because they can’t change their plans. He said that if the shutdown continues, the full impact will be felt later in October.
Mary and Steve Brodsky were visiting Springdale from New York City and fit Marriott’s description perfectly. They arrived just as the shutdown started and they have had to rearrange their entire trip because the national parks throughout Utah are closed.
The Brodskys said they have had a great time anyway because they have been able to visit state parks and byways that are not closed, but … “If we had known, we would not have come here,” they said.
“I’ve noticed up to $2,000 a day in sales walking out the door.” Shandee Davis, the manager of Wildcat Willies Ranch Grill & Saloon, said. “In fact, I just got off the phone with three separate tour companies that have groups of 45 to 105 people all canceling their tours because they can’t get into the national parks.”
Davis said costs are up 10 percent and revenue is down at least 20 percent already. Cost is up because they have to maintain staffing, but since tips make up a large part of staff compensation and that’s down, they have to make up the difference. Davis pointed out large tours are being canceled because they can’t get through the park tunnel since they have to be guided through the tunnel and the staff to do that has been furloughed during the shutdown.
Dean Cook, the president of the Zion Park Visitors Bureau, said all of Washington County will be impacted since Springdale contributes an estimated 25 to 30 percent of the tax revenue the county receives from tourism.
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