Preliminary agreement reached to open Painted Canyon Overlook
Painted Canyon Overlook could be open by Memorial Day, the superintendent of Theodore Roosevelt National Park said.
Valerie Naylor said the popular lookout rest area and tourist attraction, which is a gateway to North Dakota's only national park, could be open by Memorial Day after an agreement was reached Wednesday.
"We've reached a preliminary agreement that would have Painted Canyon open on May 25," Naylor said. "We still need to get final approval from the National Park Service, but we're pleased with this development. It's important that Painted Canyon be open for visitors."
Naylor said funds from some "unexpected savings" were discovered that will offset the costs associated with staffing the overlook and visitor center.
Before Wednesday's reversal, the park had been announced that Painted Canyon would not be opened in 2013 due to federal budget cuts.
"Painted Canyon Overlook is a beautiful site that attracts visitors from across the nation and the world to North Dakota," Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said in a statement released by his office Thursday. "We appreciate these federal, state and local partners working together to ensure that it will be open for the public to enjoy. Federal agencies need to be creative and work to minimize the impacts of the sequester on the public."
Last month, Hoeven contacted Park Service Director Johnathan Jarvis in an effort to find a way to open the overlook. A working group that included Naylor, Medora Mayor Doug Ellison, Billings County Commission Chair Jim Arthuad and other state and local leaders came to a resolution Wednesday, pending Park Service approval.
Naylor said the plan is to staff the visitor center, located seven miles east of Medora along Interstate 94, with park employees as it normally would.
Visited by close to 300,000 vehicles in 2012, Painted Canyon would remain open throughout the summer and likely close sometime after Labor Day.
Park spokesperson Eileen Andes said the visitors center will be open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from its opening until June 1, when be open until 6 p.m. for extended summer hours.