Grand Canyon reopens Saturday, paid for by Arizona - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Grand Canyon reopens Saturday, paid for by Arizona

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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -

It's arguably Arizona's most recognizable landmark. The Grand Canyon. But because of the government shutdown no one was allowed to take in these breathtaking sights for the past 12 days. Until Saturday.

The park's closure angered a lot of people, including a number of Arizona lawmakers. Even Governor Jan Brewer offered to use state funds to reopen the park.

Late Friday afternoon, Governor Jan Brewer confirmed that Arizona had worked out a deal with the interior department to reopen the Grand Canyon.

And Arizona will be footing the bill to do so, at least until the government is back up and running.

Governor Jan Brewer and Tusayan Mayor Greg Bryan are celebrating the reopening of the park Saturday at the El Tovar Hotel at Grand Canyon Village.

The Grand Canyon is welcoming tourists back:  all the closure signs were removed by 4 a.m. Saturday, and the first gate opened just before 6 a.m.

The state and private donors will be funding the opening for one week, paying the salaries of the "furloughed" National Park Service workers. But the deal is temporary, and will cost more than half a million dollars.

The unwelcoming sign -- "The Grand Canyon Closed" -- will be taken down Saturday, as the federal government now accepts the state's offer to pick up the cost of keeping the park open for the next week.

"I feel that the persistence that we were able to negotiate the deal, and that it will be open for tomorrow and Columbus Day weekend, the feds they turned around on their wrongheaded decision to not allow us to do this and we won."

The deal requires Arizona to pay $650,000 to open the park to the estimated 18,000 visitors a day.

The money comes from the state, donations, and the town of Tusayan. For the town at the gateway of the park, the shutdown has been catastrophic. Businesses lost a combined one million dollars.

"We exist because of the Grand Canyon National Park. If the park wasn't there we wouldn't have our business, wouldn't be living here so the effects are huge and disastrous in terms of trying to prepare for the winter time," says town mayor Greg Bryan.

High season for the town has instead meant few tourists. With gates reopening in time for a three day weekend, Bryan hopes it's enough for the town to bounce back.

"We finally have a deal to get back to doing what we do best, which is taking care of international and national guests who came here to see a world heritage site. We're evicted about the opportunity and pleased to get back to work tomorrow."

Still, what happens beyond this next week isn't yet set in stone.

"We cannot pay for the federal government tab for a long time so we better get something resolved at the federal level," said Brewer.

 

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