States Make Deals to Reopen Statue of Liberty, Other US Landmarks

Friday, 11 Oct 2013 09:50 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Three iconic American treasures — the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon, and Mount Rushmore — will reopen despite the federal shutdown, officials announced Friday.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced their states had reached deals to help foot the bill for the reopenings Saturday.

New York will pay the daily $61,600 cost of keeping Liberty Island National Park open to visitors, using funds from the state tourism budget for the first four days, the New York Daily News reported.

After that, the state must give the Department of the Interior two days notice for every additional two days it will be open.

In Arizona, the Grand Canyon National Park gotthe green light to reopen under terms of a deal Brewer reached late Friday with federal officials.

The state will pay $651,000 — a weeks' worth of costs — with the money coming from a mix of state and "other" dollars, Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder told USA Today.

In South Dakota, the state and several corporate donors worked out a deal with the National Park Service to reopen Mount Rushmore beginning Monday.

Daugaard said it will cost $15,200 a day to pay the federal government to run the landmark in the Black Hills.

He said he wired four days' worth of donations on Friday.

Cuomo noted the importance of Lady Liberty to the nation — and New York.

“The Statue of Liberty is one of this country’s most recognizable landmarks, attracting millions of visitors to the state every year, and its closure these last 12 days has had a terrible impact on the local economy and tourism industry,” Cuomo told the Daily News.

Liberty Island averages more than 10,000 visitors a day. The National Park Service reported 3.7 million people visited the site in 2011, generating $174 million in economic activity.

The park generates more than $15 million in revenue from concession and franchise fees for the federal government, as well as $3.2 million in license fees to New York City parks.

"As the shutdown continues, we cannot afford to lose the thousands of visits to the park each day," Cuomo said in a statement. "So while the dysfunction and gridlock in Washington D.C. has failed to keep this important state asset open, New York is stepping up to take over this responsibility.

The reopenings come in the wake of a decision Thursday by the National Park Service to allow federal parks to open during the government shutdown if the states pick up the costs.

Other popular national parks around the country also are using state funds to reopen.

In Utah, federal workers rushed to reopen five national parks for 10 days after the state sent $1.67 million to the U.S. government with the hope of saving its lucrative tourist season.

Zion National Park superintendent Jock Whitworth said staff members began opening gates and removing barriers and expected to have the park fully operational Saturday.

"This is a practical and temporary solution that will lessen the pain for some businesses and communities in Utah during this shutdown," Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement.

And in Colorado, officials said a deal had been struck for the state to pay $360,000 to reopen Rocky Mountain National Park for 10 days to allow tourists to reach Estes Park. The visitors are needed to help the town recover from flooding.

Just over 400 national parks, recreation areas and monuments have been closed since Oct. 1 by the partial government shutdown. And more than 20,000 National Park Service employees have been furloughed.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's administration was working on a proposal to reopen parks in that state, including the Gateway Arch grounds in St. Louis and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways Park in southern Missouri.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report


Related Stories:

Americans Enter Closed National Parks in Civil Disobedience


GOP Senators Rip Interior for Closing Public Lands
 

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