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Live Mic: Reopening Zion National Park during coronavirus

FILE - This Sept. 15, 2015, file photo, shows Zion National Park near Springdale, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — On Wednesday, for the first time since April 3, Zion National Park reopened.

So how did the first day go for the park and the town that lies at its entrance?

Zion National Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaug joined Live Mic producer Aimee Cobabe to discuss what the first hours of reopening were like Wednesday.

Returning to Zion

“Fairly quiet as we expected for the first morning,” Bradybaug said. “We do expect to be pretty busy here as time goes on.”

Early-bird visitors showed up before it started to warm up to take in early-morning wildlife watching, he said.

How will social-distancing rules be implemented and enforced at the park?

Bradybaug said there are no limits on the number of people on the trails. But he added that families or groups of visitors should maintain social distancing from other groups at the park.

We’ll do what we can to encourage social distancing,” Bradybaug said. “But really it’s up to our visitors to pay close attention to that.”

What has the staff of the park been doing during the closure?

Bradybaug said employees have been preparing for the upcoming crowds by deep cleaning and sanitizing the public facilities.

“Plenty of work to be done. We’ve been getting out there making repairs to things that are difficult to do when we have a lot of visitors,” Bradybaug said.

Reopening Zion and the Town of Springdale

At the entrance of Zion National Park is the town of Springdale, which sees more than 4 million visitors pass through its boundaries every year.

Lee Lonsberry asked Mayor Stan Smith what the first day of Zion’s reopening was like for the town.

“Today means there’s hope. There’s hope once again for the businesses here in Springdale. It’s been pretty lonely over the last little bit with Springdale being a ghost town,” said Smith.

“How have things faired? What has been the impact on your community?” Lee asked.

“A lot of businesses shut down completely. Others tried to stay open,” the mayor said. “A lot of the restaurants were following the guidelines. The locals were supporting that. But the hotels were pretty much nonexistent [with] very, very few people coming to stay in Springdale during that time.”

“How are the spirits among the folks there? How did your people hold up?” Lee asked.

“Some of the government funding, the Paycheck Protection Program, have helped out tremendously,” Smith said. “Most businesses have seen somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 to 99.5 percent decrease in revenue for the month of April.”

But despite reopening Zion National Park , the mayor said there are some businesses in Springdale that have still not reopened their doors.

“So we really don’t know who’s going to come out of this. . . It’s kind of a wait-and-see thing,” Smith said.


Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.