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Updated Oct 12, 2013 - 5:00 pm

Grand Canyon National Park reopens to tourists

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The trains are rolling in, tour buses are pulling up
and vehicles are moving steadily through the entrance gates of Grand Canyon
National Park after Arizona struck a deal with the federal government to reopen
the landmark tourist area.

“Y’all come back to the Grand Canyon, it’s open,” Gov. Jan Brewer said
Saturday from the South Rim.

Park employees who had been furloughed because of the federal budget battle
awoke early Saturday to remove closure signs from trails, unlock restrooms and
restock shelves before allowing vehicle traffic. Arizona is paying the National
Park Service $651,000 to keep the Grand Canyon open for seven days.

Joe Del Monte and his wife planned a trip to the Grand Canyon for their
children’s mid-winter break. He kept their hotel reservations in Tusayan, just
outside the South Rim entrance, while they visited Sedona, holding out hope that
his son’s wish to throw a stick into the Grand Canyon would be fulfilled.

“It was a bit of disbelief that they could close a place like the Grand
Canyon,” said Del Monte, of Chandler. “We’re grateful politics got pushed to
the side.”

The family planned to do some hiking and “soak in as much as possible and
enjoy the nice weather.”

The Grand Canyon typically gets 18,000 visitors a day in October at a time when
temperatures are cooler and the leaves begin to change colors.

The partial government shutdown ruined vacations and threatened businesses that
depend on Grand Canyon tourism. Federal and private employees were furloughed,
river rafting trips canceled and campgrounds, hotels and hiking trails closed.
Officials estimate losses in the millions.

Will Anderson was headed to Lees Ferry on Saturday to begin a 19-day rafting
trip on the Colorado River on Sunday – two days shorter than originally planned.
The Sacramento, Calif., resident said it was hard to keep up morale within his
group but that he had faith they’d eventually be able to launch the trip he
considers the “premier wilderness experience you can get in the lower 48
states.”

Not all of the group members, including some from North Carolina and Alaska,
made it and incurred financial losses, he said. The rest were willing to wait
until Tuesday for the canyon to reopen.

“It’s appalling that Congress can’t work things out, but a huge relief that
the states are able to step in,” he said.

Services to visitors were expected to be limited during the first 48 hours as
vendors restock. The first meal at El Tovar Hotel on the South Rim was planned
for Saturday night.

The funding to reopen the park came from the state Office of Tourism, the town
of Tusayan and private businesses. Tusayan Mayor Greg Bryan presented a check
for $426,500 to Brewer during a Saturday news conference.

Grand Canyon Superintendent Dave Uberuaga said the long weekend was a major
driver in talks to resume park operations. He said the agreement with Arizona
includes an option to extend the opening of Grand Canyon past seven days if
needed.

“It’s going to be a significant economic boost to everybody,” he said.
“Hopefully, we can have a continuing resolution by the time we run through the
state of Arizona agreement and their funding.”

Other national parks and monuments in Arizona remain closed. The exception is
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which stretches into Utah. Utah governor
Gov. Gary Herbert sent $1.67 million to the U.S. government to open the
recreation area that includes Lake Powell, and other sites in Utah.

Brewer said she would push Congress to reimburse Arizona for funding the Grand
Canyon.

“Arizona should not have to pay the federal government’s tab here,” she said.
“It’s their responsibility. The president and Congress should get up and do
their jobs and negotiate an end to this shutdown as soon as possible.”

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