Town of Tusayan contributes $200,000 to reopen Grand Canyon - Tucson News Now

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Town of Tusayan contributes $200,000 to reopen Grand Canyon

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Arizona will donate $651,000 to keep the parking running for seven days. (Source: CBSD 5 News) Arizona will donate $651,000 to keep the parking running for seven days. (Source: CBSD 5 News)
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WASHINGTON (AP/CBS5) -

Grand Canyon National Park is again open to the estimated 18,000 people who visit the landmark every day, thanks in large part the town of Tusayan and funds from private companies.

The Tusayan Town Manager Will Wright said the town of Tusayan pledged $200,000 to get the popular park back open on Saturday despite the government shutdown.

The National Park Service and Gov. Jan Brewer announced late Friday afternoon that they had reached an agreement that would allow the Grand Canyon to reopen and temporarily operate.

Wright said the following private sectors donated in addition to Tusayan's $200,000:

  • Red Feather - $25,000
  • Best Western GC Squire Inn - $25,000
  • Papillion Helicopters - $25,000
  • Grand Canyon Airlines - $25,000
  • The Stilo Group - $25,000
  • Seven Mile Lodge - $1,000
  • Canyon Plaza Resport - $25,000
  • Grand Canyon Management - $25,000
  • Gold Wolff Jewelers of Flagstaff - $500
  • Grand Canyon Brewery of Williams - $5,000
  • IMAX Theater - $15,000
  • Northwest River Supply - $30,000

A stretch of State Route 64 in Grand Canyon National Park reopened to traffic over the weekend. The 30-mile-long section of State Route 64, which provides access to the popular South Rim, within the Grand Canyon National Park is owned and operated by the federal government. Travelers can reach the North Rim by taking SR 67, which has not yet closed for the winter season.

The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which includes Lake Powell, near Page also reopened Saturday.

Arizona will donate $651,000 to keep the parking running for seven days, from Oct. 12 through Oct. 18.

Currently, there is no guarantee Arizona will see that money reimbursed. However, members of Congress are working on a bill that would guarantee reimbursement funds for states that strike a deal with the Interior Department to open one or more national parks.

Brewer originally rejected the Interior Department's insistence that state money pay for the whole operation to reopen.

The Interior Department politely turned away proposals from Brewer and other governors until Thursday. The department later said it will consider allowing for state money to operate national parks that are closed because of the budget battle.

On Friday, the National Park Service announced that it has reached an agreement with Utah that will allow eight national parks in the state to reopen and temporarily operate during the government shutdown.

In the agreement, Utah donates $1,665,720.80 to the National Park Service to pay National Park Service employees to reopen and manage the eight national parks for 10 days, running from Friday, Oct. 11 through Oct. 20.

The National Park Service also reached an agreement with Colorado on Friday to allow Rocky Mountain National Park to reopen. The cost for the 10 days of funding is $362,700, according to the Interior Department.

However, governors from Montana (Glacier National Park) and Wyoming (Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks) said they would not pay to have their respective parks reopened.

Grand Canyon visitors pour about $1.3 million into nearby communities daily.

U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Arizona Republicans, issued the following statement on efforts to reopen the Grand Canyon:

"We are pleased by reports that the Secretary of the Interior now recognizes that the closure of Grand Canyon National Park has been an economic disaster for northern Arizona and has offered to reopen Grand Canyon National Park using state and private donations, which we called for last week.

"This proposal will need to be reviewed by Gov. Brewer first but, if it is a good-faith offer by the Administration, the Park Service must be willing to at least agree to a partial reopening similar to the agreement reached with the State of Arizona during the 1995 government shutdown. That agreement opened to visitors the South Rim's Grand Canyon Village, which is the major economic generator of jobs for the Town of Tusayan and the region. The 1995 deal cost the State of Arizona $17,000 per day, which was later reimbursed by the Park Service.

"Over the past 10 days, the Grand Canyon has been effectively held hostage. About 18,000 visitors are being turned away each day and those spotted in the Park are being issued citations and ordered to appear before a federal court. Food banks are rushing food to the 2,200 government and tourism employees stranded inside the Park as restaurants and resorts lay off hundreds of workers.Colorado River rafting companies that provide visitors with once-in-a-lifetime Grand Canyon experiences are being forced to cancel reservations and close early for the season. The Town of Tusayan - the gateway to the South Rim - reports that its businesses are losing more than $200,000 a day.

"Washington may have time to play this partisan game of chicken, but the people of Arizona do not. The President must join with Congress to begin negotiations to resolve this impasse. Meanwhile, the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior should work with the State of Arizona and non-federal entities to find solutions that mitigate the impact on the local communities while the shutdown continues."

Any profits made from visitors' fees will still go back to federal coffers. According to law, those funds are earmarked for maintenance costs at federal visitor centers.

St. Mary's Food Bank set up a mobile pantry distribution Friday that is open to all Grand Canyon and Tusayan employees. A food bank spokesperson said the weekly distributions will continue until the government shutdown ends.

There are more than 2,200 Grand Canyon employees and an additional 1,200 hospitality employees of surrounding businesses who have been furloughed while the shutdown continues.

For more on this story and other stories around Arizona from this author, follow Shawn Kline on Facebook and Twitter.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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