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Tue, March 31

Updated: Tusayan council and local businesses pledge $381,000 in hopes to reopen Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park. Photo/WGCN

Grand Canyon National Park. Photo/WGCN

TUSAYAN, Ariz. - The town of Tusayan, which sits just outside the gates of Grand Canyon National Park, generated more than $290,000 in sales tax in October of last year. But the money won't be coming in this year, thanks to the federal government shutdown.

For that reason, the town of Tusayan has committed $200,000 to reopen a Grand Canyon viewpoint, possibly Mather Point, and to reopen Highway 64 between Tusayan and Cameron.

"Everyday, it impacts us," Tusayan mayor Greg Bryan said about the shutdown. "This national park has no interest or willingness to allow us to provide them funding."

Tusayan's Red Feather Properties has pledged $25,000 to help keep the park open, and other businesses are following suit. As of Oct. 8, local businesses generated more than $181,000 to help reopen the park. Coupled with the town's commitment, that sum totals around $381,000.

But, even with those financial promises, park officials say they aren't accepting third-party donations.

At Tusayan's council meeting last night, Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga said that the park wasn't allowed to accept any third-party donations to re-open the park. Currently, the council is trying to find out who made that call.

"If it is a policy, we need to ask, when did it take place? When was it put into place? It was obviously not in place in 1995 when the funds were provided," Bryan said.

During the 1995 federal shutdown, then Governor Fife Symington gathered state resources and private donations to keep the park partially open for 21 days.

"Some have reflected back on the 1995 event, and say 'well, we did it then, why can't we do it now,'" Uberuaga told council members. "Bottom line, any third-party funding of the national park opening will not occur. This is a fundamental core operation of the federal government provided for by government appropriations by the U.S. Congress."

The town has calls out to Flagstaff Mayor Jerry Nabours, Williams Mayor John Moore and Sedona Mayor Rob Adams to see if they can help Tusayan's cause.

The Grand Canyon Trust's Roger Clark has offered his support. Arizona Department of Transportation and Coconino County Supervisor Art Babbot said they will help however they can.

Speaker of the House Andy Tobin also gave Tusayan his full support. Bryan said that Tobin believes the state has up to half a million dollars to give in this sort of situation.

"Speaker Andy Tobin told us tonight that our governor is in favor, the governor wants to do something, she just keeps being told, 'no there's nothing, no there's nothing,' we just need to get this thing moving sooner than later," Bryan said.

Council member Bill Fitzgerald asked how the town would estimate how much it would cost per day to keep the park running.

Bryan said a rough estimate is $19,000 a day.

"We're not going to get an estimate from the superintendent because he's not going to want to provide any sense of support for the action, so we'll have to guess," Bryan said. "We figure $25,000 a day. Bare in mind we're not talking just our monies; we're talking hopefully several hundred thousand from the state. I don't think we would enter into anything without that backing."

Council member John Rueter said the town must pursue a partial opening to the fullest.

"I think Tusayan needs to lead, in this case, the effort to get the park open," Rueter said. "We have a contingency plan in our budget for economic disasters, and this is very quickly becoming an economic disaster."

While legislators continue to squabble in Washington, Bryan said the town will work to find a way to reopen the park.

"It's our intent to push it," Bryan said.

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