Grand Canyon Reopens With Arizona State Funds
PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona reached a deal Friday with the Interior Department to pay for Grand Canyon National Park to completely reopen using state and local funds during the federal government shutdown.
The National Park Service said Friday night that entrances to the park will open to the public at 8 a.m. Saturday, although services to visitors may be limited during the first 48 hours as vendors restock.
Gov. Jan Brewer’s office said she would travel to the canyon’s South Rim on Saturday morning to “celebrate the canyon’s reopening.”
“I’m gratified the Obama administration agreed to reverse its policy and allow Arizona to reopen Grand Canyon, Arizona’s most treasured landmark and a crucial driver of revenue to the state,” Brewer said in a statement.
Arizona will pay the National Park Service $651,000 to keep the Grand Canyon open for seven days. The $93,000 a day is less than the $112,000 daily rate the federal government said this week was needed to fund the park operations.
The funding includes cash provided by the town of Tusayan, just outside the park’s South Rim entrance, and raised from private business. Together, they pledged $400,000.
The state’s portion is coming from the Office of Tourism, said Andrew Wilder, spokesman for Brewer.
The Republican governor had been pushing to use state money to open only a portion of the park, something the Interior Department said Thursday it would not contemplate because of the complexities of keeping some parts of individual parks closed while other parts were opened.
National parks in Utah began opening Friday after Gov. Gary Herbert sent $1.67 million to the U.S. government, while Colorado paid $360,000 to reopen Rocky Mountain National Park through Oct. 20.
The Interior Department is telling states they won’t be reimbursed for their expenditures, but Brewer said she will push Congress to provide that funding.
Brewer and the state’s congressional delegation had been lobbying the Obama administration to allow reopening of the park since shortly after it closed Oct. 1. Three other states also made request for their parks.
The Interior Department refused but then announced Thursday it was changing its position and would allow states to cover the cost of reopening shuttered national parks.
The Grand Canyon closed for only the second time since it became a national park in 1919. Federal and private employees were furloughed, river rafting trips canceled and campgrounds, hotels and hiking trails closed.
The 18,000 tourists who visit the Grand Canyon each day at this time of year pour an estimated $1.3 million a day into nearby communities. Hotels, tour operators and rafting companies felt the hit and called on the state to help. The National Park Service said 2,200 federal and private employees who work in the park are on furlough.
Arizona was the only state that reopened a national park after a 1995 shutdown, with then-Gov. Fife Symington negotiating a deal to open the road to the Grand Canyon with private and state money that was later reimbursed.
The majority of the park remained closed, but tourists from around the world were able to get to the most popular scenic overlooks using 11 miles of roadway, walk the South Rim and visit Grand Canyon Village.
Brewer’s administration pushed to use that agreement as a framework for what the state was willing to do this time around, Wilder said. The 1995 cost was $17,625 per day.
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