Feds Willing to Let States Pay to Open National Parks, But California Not Inclined to Deal

Gates closed at an entrance into Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks because of the 2013 government shutdown. | Photo: Courtesy NPS

The Obama Administration today signaled its support in letting states pay to reopen national parks, but California is not poised to jump in on the opportunity.

"Responding to the economic impacts that the park closures are having on many communities and local businesses, Secretary Jewell will consider agreements with Governors who indicate an interest and ability to fully fund National Park Service personnel to re-open national parks in their states," said Interior Spokesman Blake Androff in a statement.

The closure of 401 national park units has left 20,000 employees furloughed translating to an estimated $76 million in daily visitor spending, according to figures released today by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees. "These figures are mind boggling," said the group's chair, Maureen Finnerty, a former superintendent of Everglades and Olympic national parks, "and they only begin to capture the full economic shock of locking up the crown jewels of America."

Their analysis looked at several leading parks, including Yosemite National Park, which has lost over 106,000 visitors and more than $10 million in the first week and a half of the shutdown. It has put 5,607 jobs at stake, most which are local jobs in surrounding communities from Mariposa to Mammoth Lakes.

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But if communities are hoping the state of California will step in and fund the parks, it's a long shot.

"The state has no plans for providing general funds to open national parks," H.D. Palmer, California Department of Finance spokesperson, told KCET. He said there are a number of "economic wildcards" that threaten to throw off the state's delicately balanced budget, and two of them currently at play -- the current shutdown and the upcoming debt ceiling decision -- have the ability to do that.

Additionally, Palmer said, there's no guarantee that states will be reimbursed for opening national parks. "That requires an act of Congress."

Utah, South Dakota, Arizona, and Colorado have all expressed interest in funding national park operations during the shutdown, according to the Associated Press.

About the Author

Zach Behrens is KCET's Director of News, Region and State, working on digital and on-air news products that relate to Southern California and beyond.
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