Cave tours at Timpanogos Cave National Monument in Utah have fallen victim to the budget sequestration, as the monument's superintendent decided to end the tours early rather than laying off staff.
The final tours of the season were this past Sunday. The Swinging Bridge Picnic Area will remain open, but the cave trail will be closed to hikers at the Quarter Way gate, approximately one-third of a mile above the trailhead, as park staff continue repairs to damage caused by rock fall in recent storms.
Traditionally, tours are offered into early October depending on the weather, but the park shortened its spring and fall operating hours in response to budget reductions as part of this year’s federal budget sequestration. The park hopes to return to a longer operating season next summer, but final plans cannot be made until the fiscal year 2014 budget is received.
But with the budget in mind, monument officials are proposing to increase cave tour fees next year by $1 to afford a reservations system for tour tickets. Monument officials want to line up with www.recreation.gov so visitors can purchase tickets in advance via an on-line reservation site or via telephone.
Under this system, the monument must pay a service fee for each ticket sold. Until recently, the service fee was $3 per ticket. In March 2013, the monument sought public comment on a proposal to join the system at this price, and received multiple comments supporting the services offered through the NRRS but opposing the $3 per ticket fee, a monument release said.
The monument withdrew its proposal as a result of these comments.
Since then, the National Park Service has negotiated a new lower service fee with Reserve America, the current NRRS contractor. Timpanogos Cave has modified its proposal accordingly. Under its new plan, the monument would add a $1 service fee to each ticket to cover the cost of the new service.