Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order Thursday directing state officials to prepare a plan to keep the state’s four national parks open through a potential government shutdown, days before their potential closure.
With Republican infighting so far thwarting any congressional budget deal, the federally managed parks in Colorado — Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, the Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde and Rocky Mountain National Park — will close just after midnight on Sunday, Polis wrote. That could happen on a particularly busy weekend for Rocky Mountain during leaf-peeping season.
Polis’ order directs the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to develop a plan and identify potential funding needs to keep the parks open through a federal shutdown.
State officials here and elsewhere have worked to keep parks open through shutdowns before. In 2013, the National Park Service reached a deal with Colorado officials to reopen Rocky Mountain National Park. The state agreed to donate $362,7000 to the park service, which had furloughed its workforce, to staff the park, though it later sought reimbursement.
More than 5.5 million people visited Colorado’s national parks last year, according to the governor’s office, spending nearly $700 million in the process. The summer and fall are the busy season for Rocky Mountain National Park, according to the park service’s website.
“The closure of the national parks and other federal lands would hurt state and local economies, small businesses and park employees,” Polis said in a news release accompanying his order.
The governor’s office said Polis’ counterparts in Arizona and Utah had taken similar steps to ensure parks in those states remained open to the public.
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