ZION NATIONAL PARK – Memorial Day weekend saw a strong increase in visitors to Zion National Park this year with record-breaking numbers of people using the park’s shuttle bus system.
Approximately 80,000 visitors came to the national park during the Holiday weekend of Friday through Monday, some 16,000 more than last year. The park saw about 64,000 visitors over the same timeframe last year.
“I’d say we had a record day on Sunday,” Erin Johnson, an Oscar’s Café employee, said. “Even when the federal government shut the park down last year, we never slowed down because of our local following.”
Parking lots were full by 9:40 a.m. on Saturday, and by 8:40 a.m. on Sunday, Alyssa Baltrus, chief of interpretation and visitor services, said.
Cliffrose Lodge & Gardens saw a significant increase in reservations and visitations, its General Manager Breck Dockstader said.
“We were overbooked during Memorial Day weekend,” Dockstader said. “I think the mighty five campaign has something to do with it. We’re getting a lot more Americans since the economy is getting better and still seeing a lot of European tourists.”
Zion’s mandatory shuttle bus service that conveys visitors between the park and through the gateway town of Springdale had all 32 of its buses in service for the first time ever, Baltrus said, 23 double-unit buses in the Zion Canyon and nine in town. The in-town service and canyon shuttle service broke all records in ridership.
Long lines were seen throughout the park over the weekend: at the pedestrian entrance; queuing for the shuttle at the visitor center; queuing for the shuttle at the Temple of Sinawava – the trailhead leading to the park’s infamous “Narrows” slot canyons. Evening bus drivers reported seeing a string of people coming down from Refrigerator Canyon with flashlights.
“Memorial Day weekend I saw more people than I’ve ever seen in my whole life,” Dockstader, who grew up in the neighboring town of Rockville, said. “Cars were lined up on both sides of the street the whole weekend.”
Reflecting on the government shutdown of the national parks last year and its effect on gateway communities, Springdale’s Town Clerk Fay Cope said:
It was devastating nationwide, there were very bad repercussions nationwide and Springdale was luckier than most. We are very lucky that Springdale is the partnering gateway community to Zion National Park – people love it and we’re glad that we can share in that. There are other gateway communities that are not this lucky.
Springdale is growing, Cope said, and gaining a caché of its own. People love Zion and that is often the No. 1 reason they come, but there are people that coming just to enjoy Springdale.
The economy for 2014 is looking good. Cope said the City Council receives reports from Zion Cayon Visitor’s Bureau president, Dean Cook, monthly and his reports have been systematically positive.
“After this weekend, all I can say is that our sales tax revenues are up, our visitation is up, and our businesses are saying that they’re having a good season so far,” Cope said. “To me this always interprets this as a good year.”
St. George News Reporter Aspen Stoddard contributed to this report.
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