ST. GEORGE — Springdale is facing a lack of shuttle service due to Zion National Park taking all of its own shuttles into the park in order to serve visitors while also observing COVID-19 restrictions. As a result, the Washington County Commission approved an agreement Tuesday with St. George Shuttle to provide service to the town through October.
“When the park tried to figure out how to navigate the new COVID restrictions using the shuttles in the canyon, they determined because of machine power and manpower and the low number of bodies you can actually get on the shuttles, that they needed to pull the shuttles from Springdale and put them up in the canyon,” Kevin Lewis, director of the Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office, told St. George News following Tuesday’s commission meeting.
“That left the town of Springdale without shuttle service, and that’s really an essential service in that area that’s so confined and restricted,” he said. “To have the ability to move around town and to get people to and from town to the park and so forth was really, really important.”
This led to Greater Zion issuing a request for proposals through the county for temporary shuttle service for Springdale. Applying companies would have to supply three buses that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the request for proposal document. Two of the shuttles would run from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., while the third would run from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
St. George Shuttle was ultimately chosen by Greater Zion due to its being local and flexible and because of the number of shuttles it could provide the town of Springdale, Lewis told the commissioners prior to their vote.
Funding for the shuttle service is anticipated to be supplied with money from the CARES Act, Lewis said.
Use of the shuttles through Springdale will be free for riders.
While St. George Shuttle won’t be able to take visitors into the park like the old service was able to, it will take them to the Zion Mountain Village, which is right by the park’s entrance so they can walk right in, Lewis said.
St. George Shuttle began service in Springdale immediately Wednesday morning.
In relation to visitation to the national park, Commissioner Victor Iverson asked at the meeting about tourism numbers in the Zion-Springdale area due to the pandemic.
Compared to the July 4, 2019, holiday weekend, this year saw half as many visitors, Lewis said.
Some people are also canceling hotel reservations in Springdale as they believe they may not be able to get into the national park since they need to get a ticket to access the park shuttles now, Lewis added.
“I think there is some concern there,” he told Iverson. “People cancel their hotel stays if they think they can’t get into the park.”
Midweek visitation overall remains down, with weekends doing better, though this last weekend only saw 50% occupancy at Springdale hotels during would have otherwise be an active and heavy tourism season, Lewis said.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.