ST. GEORGE – During the time span while the national parks were closed, Snow Canyon State Park experienced a massive surge in park visitation, park workers said. During the first two weeks of October, Snow Canyon’s attendance doubled compared to the previous two years.
During the same time span in 2011 and 2012, the entrance revenue for the park was roughly $10,000, Snow Canyon State Park Manager Kristen Comella said. This year, during this time span – while the national parks were closed – Snow Canyon’s revenue went up to $21,000.
Other seasonal local events that drive park visitation, like the Senior Games and the St. George Marathon, figure in, Comella said, but pointed to the national parks closure as the obvious explanation for such a major jump in attendance.
Comella said she was glad for the extra attendance, but was left scrambling to deal with the aftereffects.
“We were pretty well stuffed from one end of the park to another,” Comella said.
The entrance station staff saw a huge increase in standard day visitors, many of which included large busses and tour groups. Many of these groups reported that they couldn’t get into the Grand Canyon or Zion National Park and were visiting Snow Canyon instead, Comella said.
Because of the surge, Comella had to act. During the middle of last week, unsure how long the national parks would be closed, Comella submitted a request to their region office for an additional $2,000 in funding to help with the surge. Although she no longer needs the money, it would have gone to pay for boosted employee hours necessary to deal with the logjam of visitors. These extra hours would have brought in more staff to cover the office, visitors center and the entrance stations for another three weeks.
Now that the park numbers have dropped back to normal, Comella has seen other effects. “There is certainly a lot more wear and tear and off-trail impacts,” she said, citing the forming of “social trails” and increased garbage as the main impacts.
Despite not needing the extra money during the surge, Comella might still use some of it to fund extra maintenance staff hours needed to fix damage done to the park. Otherwise, Comella will continue through October as usual, which, without a surge in attendance, is usually one of the park’s busiest months anyway.
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