DENVER (CBS4)– The National Park Service has allowed Colorado to reopen Rocky Mountain National Park by using state funds.
The Department of the Interior was forced to close all national parks across the country last week during the government shutdown and furlough more than 20,000 National Park Service employees.
This prompted several states, including Colorado, to ask permission to use state funds to operate the park that would lessen the economic impact on some businesses and communities, including Estes Park.
Under the terms of the agreement Colorado will donate funds to the National Park Service for the sole purpose of enabling National Park Service employees to reopen and manage Rocky Mountain National Park.
“This is a practical and temporary solution that will lessen the pain for some businesses and communities in Colorado during this shutdown,” said Secretary Sally Jewell. “We want to re-open all of our national parks as quickly possible for everyone to enjoy and call on Congress to pass a clean continuing resolution to open the government.”
The agreement funds the park for a period of 10 days, running from Friday, October 11 through Sunday, October 20 at the donated amount of $362,700.
The park will officially reopen at noon Saturday.
The federal government said it will not reimburse Colorado for the expenses of reopening the park.
Rocky Mountain National Park attracts nearly three million visitors a year. The government shutdown comes during peak tourism season for the viewing of the changing of the leaves.
The shutdown has been particularly devastating to Estes Park, a town that relies on tourism and has been hit hard by last month’s flooding.
“We need to get people into Estes at one of the most beautiful times of the year to see the elk and see the leaves changing,” said Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat representing Colorado.
Udall and Sen. Michael Bennet are working with Gov. John Hickenlooper to reopen Trail Ridge Road into Estes Park.
“I”m very excited they’re going to reopen and commend state leadership for making it happen but I do think the federal government has an obligation to step in and help with the bills just like they have with federal employees,” said Rep. Cory Gardner, a Republican representing Northern Colorado.