Gov. Jared Polis spoke to a gathering of state tourism officials at an annual gathering Thursday night after issuing an executive order that would mean state help to keep national parks running.
"Not only are these parks important for Coloradans to enjoy," Polis told CBS Colorado, "There's an enormous cost if they shut down. If we can help staff them, support the staff, make sure they stay open during a shutdown, it's good for economy, good for jobs and good for outdoor recreation for our residents."
In days and weeks leading up toas soon as Sunday, communities like Estes Park worried about what will happen with yet another federal shutdown as Congress fails to reach agreement on the federal budget.
"You know, this is coming for 365 plus days, so realize that the people you serve first are all of us," said Estes Park mayor Wendy Koenig. "All of businesses are concerned about having their incomes reduced. And we live on sales tax, that's how our government runs."
If the community at the doorway of Rocky Mountain National Park is hit hard from a drop in fall tourism and workers are not getting paychecks, revenues could decline.
"We have to go into reserves."
Colorado has stepped in before when national parks have closed due to the lack of a budget agreement. In 2013, the state helped get Rocky Mountain National Park back open. It was already a down year due to flooding in the area. The daily cost to Colorado was about $50,000 in today's dollars.
"We don't want them to cancel reservations," said Kara Franker, CEO of Visit Estes Park. "We hope that it stays open even in some capacity, but if they can't I can assure everyone Estes Park is open for business."
This time, the governor is asking the Department of Natural Resources to develop a plan to continue operations and help with resource protection of Colorado's four national parks: Rocky Mountain, Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Mesa Verde. Some of the parks slow significantly in the offseason, but Rocky Mountain National Park is always popular.
"This is a busy, big time for us."
The governor's directive means potentially pulling resources from state parks. A Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesperson said they are discussing what help would look like.
"We're good at running parks, we run 42 state parks," said Polis. "We also know our national parks are at an even greater scale and we want to do everything we can to step in if there's a shutdown, I hope they avoid it."
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