With fresh snow covering the roads and no staff available to plow them, the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks closed on Monday due to the partial closure of the federal government during its second week.
Since December 22, Utah has been funding personnel costs in Arches and two other busy national parks, but this money has been used to staff reception centers and clean toilets, not clear roads.
"We do not know when the road will open," said the National Parks Service on its website Arches. "Access to the park will only be possible when conditions improve or the National Park Service receives funding to maintain the roads."
Public funds were to be depleted Monday for Bryce Canyon, Arches and Zion, but these parks will remain accessible for the remainder of the closure, weather permitting, as are all other Utah park units. Private money will keep open reception centers at Bryce Canyon and Zion beyond Monday.
While the snow was forecast for Tuesday morning, the weather should be cleared until the end of the week at Arches and Bryce.
Garfield County has agreed to help keep the Bryce Canyon Road open when needed. The Sunrise and Sunset points of the park will remain accessible by vehicle, although the attractions to the south of Inspiration Point are not.
"The roads are always icy, so visitors know the conditions better and pay attention," said Linda Mazzu, superintendent of Bryce Canyon.
While private groups raise funds to maintain visitor services in Bryce and Zions, the Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Parks have not been solicited to help fund services in parks served by nonprofit organizations based in Moab, according to Executive Director Joette Langianese.
"Our donors are here to support the parks, which the government should not pay," she said. Langianese thinks that the parks department has decided to close the Arches and Canyonlands, both accessible by long unbalanced access roads.
"You can not climb that slope even with AWD, the problem is more than plowing," Langianese said. [in Moab], and Arches is a higher altitude. Plowing would be an ongoing process. There are general safety issues with snow on the trails. It opens more and more doors where staffing is needed. "
For example, the very popular delicate arch is accessible by a path through a very slippery sandstone when it is icy. A slip can send a visitor to slide on a precipice.
In the aftermath of Monday's storm, the parks department did not publish anything about the state of the roads in Zion and Capitol Reef National Parks, nor in the national monuments of natural bridges and dinosaurs.
The Zion Forever project provides around $ 2,000 a day to partially staff Zion until Saturday, while the Bryce Canyon Natural History Association is funding basic services for visitors to Bryce at least on January 10th. The reception center is open from 8 am to 4 pm: 30 hours
"If you have already planned to visit the park, know that we are working hand-in-hand with the National Parks Service and local partners to provide a safe and memorable visit," said Gayle Pollock, Executive Director of the Park. ;association. It is an exceptional time of year to discover the natural solitude and the stunning snowy rock formations that make Bryce Canyon a world renowned destination.
On Tuesday, some Bryce Canyon concessions, such as the General Store and Bryce Canyon Lodge, were scheduled to close for the season. Meanwhile, parking at nearby Sunrise and Sunset points fills up quickly, even though winter is the "slow" season of Bryce Canyon.
"It's still busy," said Bryce Canyon City Mayor Shiloh Syrett.
He fears that the negative publicity surrounding the government's closure, if it persists, could discourage people from traveling to Bryce this winter.
"We worry when people plan a winter vacation after the holidays," Syrett said. "Maybe they are looking for places other than national parks."
However, the usual entrance fees will not be charged. In Utah's parks, new permits for backcountry destinations are not issued, but commercial guides and outfitters might be able to conduct trips as usual . All park programs have been canceled, including ranger conferences and evening programs.