Bryce Canyon National Park to close until further notice amid coronavirus concerns

Bryce Canyon National Park, date not specified | Photo courtesy of the National Park Service, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — National Park Service officials have announced that Bryce Canyon National Park will temporarily close to all visitation until further notice in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The closure is effective at 5 p.m. Tuesday and comes with support of the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, Garfield County Commission and community members.

Thor’s Hammer, one of Bryce Canyon National Park’s most iconic hoodoos, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, July 15, 2016 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

According to a press release posted on the Bryce Canyon National Park website, the National Park Service received a letter from the health department recommending a full closure for the park.

“Upon receiving this request, Superintendent Linda Mazzu, with the support of the NPS Deputy Director, Operations, David Vela and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, made the decision to close the park until further notice,” the press release states.

Mazzu said the health and safety of park visitors, employees, local residents, volunteers and partners in and around the park was the top priority.

“Continued visitation to Bryce Canyon made it hard to maintain the thresholds needed to ensure a safe visit, which is why this temporary closure is so important,” she said in the press release.

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in rural Garfield County. The Garfield County Commission, with feedback from community members and partners, issued a statement asking for the closure in order to protect park employees and residents of the county.

“It is a difficult decision, but one we can make knowing we are doing the will of the majority,” a statement on the Garfield County Commissioners Facebook page said.

A tree ascends above Wall Street at its base, the bottom of the Navajo Loop switchbacks, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, July 15, 2016 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

Commission Chairperson Leland Pollock told St. George News that they heard the voices of their constituents and support their residents in the closure of the park.

“We’ve been working to get it closed,” he said.

Ruby’s Inn, the closest lodging to park and one of the county’s largest employers, also made a statement supporting local leaders in their request to close the park.

“This unprecedented epidemic calls for equally unprecedented collaboration and teamwork to fight COVID-19 head on. In order to protect our neighboring communities and our staff we have recommended to the local leaders that Bryce Canyon National Park be closed temporarily to help with the recommendations of local, state and federal officials to fight this pandemic,” a Ruby’s Inn press release, said.

The historic inn is set to celebrate its 104th anniversary this spring. Through over a century of growth and change, Ruby’s Inn has experienced many hardships, the hotel’s general manager Lance Syrett said. 

“We’ve been through hard times before,” he said, adding that though the park closure definitely hurts, they don’t want to make a bad problem worse.

“We’re trying to be a good community partner,” Syrett said.

During the park closure, Ruby’s Inn will keep their essential services open including some hotel rooms, the RV park, their restaurant (takeout only), the General Store where residents can buy groceries and the convenience store and gas station.

While the park is closed, the National Park Service encourages people to take advantage of several digital tools that are available including Junior Ranger books and badges, online access to the Bryce Canyon Natural History Association bookstore and the park’s social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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