Wed March 5, 2014
Government Shutdown

Report Measures The Cost Of Government Shutdown On Parks

The 2013 government shutdown resulted in nearly 8 million fewer visitors to national parks across the U.S. A new National Park Service report [.pdf] says that cost the parks and surrounding communities roughly $414 million nationwide.

In Northern Colorado, visits were down by 177,000 people at Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park, resulting in a loss in visitor spending of nearly $11 million.

Much of that money would have gone into visitor service projects like updating restrooms and trailhead signs.

"We’ll certainly try not to have it impact visitors, as far as some of the projects that we had slated," said RMNP spokeswoman Kyle Patterson. "We’ll still get to those projects because of budgeting appropriately; however, it just might take us a little longer."

Colorado was one of six states that received permission to use state money to reopen national parks during the 16-day shutdown. It's not clear whether the state will be able to recoup the $362,700 it spent.

A bill is pending in Congress to reimburse those states, which also include Utah, Arizona, New York, South Dakota and Tennessee.

Patterson said the October shutdown coming so closely after September’s flooding amounted to a 'double whammy' for the entire area.

"Certainly you’re looking at a combination of things," she said. "Our visitation was down, therefore our revenue was down. And I’m just speaking to the revenue for Rocky Mountain National Park, not, in turn, what that does to our communities that rely on the visitor spending to support their livelihoods."

Colorado’s parks play an important part in the state’s economy. According to an earlier National Park Service report [.pdf], visitor spending in 2012 totaled more than $347 million and supported nearly 5,000 jobs.