National Park Service employees in Grand County are winterizing park campgrounds and trails after an unusual 2013 fall season. The financial costs of the unexpected partial shutdown of the Federal Government in October are still being felt by communities that cater to tourists.
It is estimated Utah suffered a loss of $30 million in tourism money. The impact of the closure is still being felt by employees of the state's national parks who are trying to catch up on work that piled up during the shutdown.
"During the shutdown it was really challenging," said Sharon Kienzle, Operations Manger for the Moab Information Center.
The center operates through support from the Canyonlands Natural History Association which oversees the scientific and education efforts of the National Parks Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service. The information center manages the national park retail stores in Grand County. Federal employees from Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park were reassigned for two weeks to work at the information center to help answer questions about other sites in the area.
"It was actually a good thing," said Keinzle.
An average day of visitation at the information center in October is around 500 people. Because tourists were unable to visit the national parks, the center was visited by as many as 1,500 people each day during the closure.
"It was an amazing experience," said Keinzle. "A lot of visitors coming in were very disappointed that the parks were closed, but we could steer people to see scenery in places they wouldn't normally visit."
Directors of the Moab Information Center said they could experience an increase of visitors coming to the center in the future because of the closure. As word gets out about some of the less known sites in Grand County, they said more tourists will turn to the center for help in locating unusual areas near Utah's National Parks.