Parts Of Arizona Hit Hard By Parks Shutdown, But Others Not So Much

October 11, 2013

The U.S. Interior Department says it will consider requests from states to use their own money to reopen some national parks that have been closed as part of the federal government shutdown.The Grand Canyon has gotten a lot of love since the federal government closed its doors -- and the gates to national parks. Gov. Jan Brewer wrote to President Barack Obama last week, asking that he allow the state to use its money and private cash to reopen the park.

But there are other national parks and monuments in Arizona that are closed, and that’s causing concern, to varying degrees, in their communities. One of them is Holbrook, home of Petrified Forest National Park. Kathleen Smith is the Executive Director of the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce.

"One of Holbrook's biggest industry is our tourism, so with the close of it we are seeing some significant changes in our economy, between our restaurants, our motels," Smith said.

To Southern Arizona now, and Willcox — home of Chirachaua National Monument and Fort Bowie National Historic Site, which are also closed because of the government shutdown.

Alan Baker is the Executive Director of the Willcox Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture.

"It has not had a very large impact, and one of the reasons why is that we have a lot of state parks around us, and we've been able to send visitors to those state parks," Baker said.

In some parts of the state, the closed parks have hardly registered. Mike Varney, President and CEO of the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce says his members haven’t really been talking about the closure of Saguaro National Park.

"There are probably some businesses, some small businesses near the park whose traffic count and customer count are down, and we certainly regret that," Varney said. "But in terms of being a newsworthy story that is on the tips of the tongues of people here in the Tucson area, it’s just mostly a non-factor."

The shutdown has been a big factor for the Navajo Nation, whose parks have remained open — including Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly. Roberta John is with the Navajo Nation Parks and Rec Department, and calls the shutdown a blessing in disguise.

"There are more people coming in, individual travelers as well as bus tour groups," John said. "People will probably realize there are things to do in the Four Corners area that they were not aware of before."

John estimates the Navajo Nation derives more than half of its revenue from its parks. She’s optimistic that bus tours in the area will also start adding tribal parks to their itineraries in the future.

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