Yosemite and Grand Canyon national parks remained open this weekend despite the latest government shutdown.
At Yosemite National Park, the visitors center and ranger programs were closed Saturday, and entrance fees were not collected. But the gates remained open, as did the park's hotels, concessions and campgrounds. In Arizona, the state took steps to ensure that Grand Canyon National Park will not close during the budget wrangling.
Hoping to avoid a repeat of the problems caused by last month's federal budget impasse--which closed the Grand Canyon park for the first time in its 76-year history--Arizona officials reached an agreement with the U.S. Interior Department for the state to donate the funds necessary to keep two popular areas of the Grand Canyon from closing.
Under the informal deal, the park's most visited areas would remain open through a daily $17,625 donation to the National Park Service to pay federal workers who otherwise would have been furloughed.
The situation in Yosemite was less clear Saturday. "We're waiting for directions to come from Washington," said park ranger Sarina Lambert. "We didn't really expect this to happen again. I think most people are hoping it's all going to be over by Monday."
Christmas is one of the most popular times in Yosemite. The park's hotels are booked for the holidays and the seats at special lodge dinners were filled by lottery months ago. Nothing has been canceled so far, but the staff for Yosemite Concession Services, which operates the lodgings, are telling reservation holders to stay tuned.
"We really have no idea what's going to go on," said reservations clerk Eric Loomis. "The government does what it wants."
At the Grand Canyon, the state money will keep the Mather Point and Grand Canyon Village area on the South Rim--the two most popular sites this time of year--open for roughly 15 days. The North Rim is closed during the winter except for cross-country skiing.
Last month's partial federal shutdown forced Grand Canyon and 21 other parks, including Yosemite, to close.
The National Park Service estimates it lost $75,000 in revenue from the $10-per-car entrance fee to the Grand Canyon National Park, and park concessionaires put their losses at $750,000.
* NATIONAL PARKS OPEN
Grand Canyon and Yosemite parks stay open despite shutdown. A3