Residents and visitors in Springdale gathered together in one of Zion National Park’s parking lots Saturday morning to protest with the name Occupy Zion.
Occupy Zion was created by James Milligan and Nick Smith. The idea came when Occupy Yosemite was formed, which happened the previous day to protest Yosemite National Park’s temporary closure.
The closure of Zion National Park resulted from the government shutdown and left a lot of people’s businesses surrounding the area to suffer. The founders said Occupy Zion is a way to make a statement that rejects the government’s actions. Other than the businesses being injured by the lack of customers, people think national parks are a natural right to explore and not something a government should close along with its shutdown.
Members of Occupy Zion said the plan was to enter the park, whether allowed to or not, and pick up garbage.
St. George resident Krista Nelson had planned a vacation to Zion for two weeks, and she looks forward to coming to Zion every year. She said the government shutdown preventing people from going into Zion is ridiculous, and there’s no reason for it.
Nelson said the government is holding the natural resources that belong to the people for their own agenda. She also believes the park doesn’t solely belong to the government.
Nick Smith, owner of Seldom Seen Adventures, said his tour company is heavily impacted by the government shutdown. Smith said it turned Springdale into a ghost town, and Ruby’s Inn lost $150,000 in the first three days.
Protestor Victor Cooper said national parks are open land. The business owners here are pawns in the political game. He said this is hurting businesses and is an embarrassment to the U.S.
“The government has no idea the depth of hurt their putting on the American people,” Cooper said. “I’m livid—just livid.”
Cooper said even though both sides of politics claim small businesses are the backbone of the United States, they’re breaking the backbone.
Nelson said they were in Zion for an hour and a half. Before the group entered, a Zion ranger approached them and said, “The park is closed, we are not staffed right now, and we want you to know we will be taking pictures and there could be consequences.”
Occupy Zion walked over to the fence, picked up trash, then sat at the amphitheater before leaving.
Occupy Zion will hold another protest this Saturday at noon.