California says ‘no’ to reopening national parks on state’s dime
California officials aren’t biting when it comes to an offer by the Obama administration to use state money to reopen national parks closed by the federal government shutdown.
The Interior Department announced Thursday that it would consider reopening parks if states pledged to foot the bill for now-furloughed National Park Service personnel.
In the immediate aftermath of the shutdown, state tourism industries with strong ties to national parks were deeply impacted. Weddings were canceled, family trips cut short and local businesses dependent on tourists suffered. That prompted some governors to ask for the authority to operate national parks in their state on their own dime.
One of those states, Utah, has seized on the offer to reopen. But officials in California have been less than enthusiastic.
H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for California’s Department of Finance, said “the state has no plans to front general funds in order to reopen national parks.”
“While our budget is balanced, it is balanced by a narrow margin. There are a number of risks or pressures that could move things in the wrong direction,” he said, including the effects of the government shutdown and potential damage if the debt limit is not raised.
Palmer said another factor for the state’s decision is the lack of guarantee that it would be reimbursed once the shutdown ends.
Companies in the region, meanwhile, have had to readjust around the park closures. At an Anaheim tour company, employees are switching out bus tours to national parks with white-water rafting adventures, airplane rides and museum visits.
And the California Department of Parks and Recreation has used the federal shutdown to increase its own market share. The agency posted a Facebook notice alerting disappointed visitors to Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Alcatraz and other federal properties in California that state parks are eager for their business. It was shared 40,000 times.
The National Park Service, meanwhile, is losing an estimated $32 million a day in entrance fees and other revenue.
“We are really trying to convince visitors not to turn around and go home,” Julie Hadzega, a spokeswoman for the Yosemite-Mariposa County Tourism Bureau, told The Times.
Los Angeles Times writer Evan Halper contributed to this report.
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