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Updated Mar 28, 2014 - 3:50 pm

Town wants its name to reflect Grand Canyon ties

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Take away the Grand Canyon, and the town of Tusayan
probably wouldn’t exist.

Most of the businesses in the tiny town outside the canyon’s South Rim entrance
cater to the tourists at the national park. The two locales even share a zip
code.

That has town officials thinking maybe “Tusayan” isn’t the best-suited name.
They are floating the idea of changing the community’s moniker to “The Town of
Grand Canyon,” `’Grand Canyon South” or something similar that reflects its
ties to the Grand Canyon and gives it a better marketing tool.

“We see that as a no-brainer,” Mayor Greg Bryan said.

Plus, he said, “Tusayan” (pronounced TOO’-say-ohn) also sounds too much like
“Tucson,” on the opposite end of the state.

The town is planning a public meeting in April to discuss a possible name
change that could be referred to the ballot in August. While residents agree any
name with the words “Grand Canyon” would be more recognizable, some question
the need to rush.

“We are very tied to the Grand Canyon, and it (Tusayan) does have a history,”
said Clarinda Vail, whose family was among the earliest settlers. “There is
more to a town’s name than marketing. There is history.”

For the thousands of people who drive to the South Rim every day, Tusayan is
impossible to miss. The town of 550 with its modest scattering of hotels,
restaurants and gift shops _ some of which already use Grand Canyon in branding
_ incorporated four years ago, but its history dates to before the creation of
Grand Canyon National Park.

The exact meaning of the word “Tusayan” changes with the American Indian
tribe it is traced to. Generally, it refers to an area with buttes or mesas, and
where people gather. Spaniards referred to the area that Hopis once occupied as
“The Province of Tusayan,” according to the National Park Service.

When building a highway through the community, the state of Arizona picked up
the name from a local bar and posted a sign declaring the private property
“Tusayan.” The name remains in a museum and pueblo ruins within Grand Canyon
National Park and a ranger district on the Kaibab National Forest.

Changing the town’s name to something that incorporates “Grand Canyon” would
mean changes in logos, stationary and signage. Bryan said that cost hasn’t been
estimated yet. The change might also prompt confusion with mail, especially if
the national park and what could be “The Town of Grand Canyon, AZ” retain the
same zip code.

Bryan said town officials believe it would make good business sense to change
the name, but they want to gauge public opinion first.

“It isn’t intended to change things just to make a change,” he said. “It’s
intended to improve the business climate and make it that much easier for the
visitor to find us.”

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