Environment

Here's How Much Arizona Spent to Keep Grand Canyon Open During Shutdown

The Grand Canyon was open for business this weekend, but these publicity stunts don't come free.
The Grand Canyon was open for business this weekend, but these publicity stunts don't come free. Scott Temme/Xanterra Parks & Resorts
Despite a federal government shutdown, the Grand Canyon was open this weekend in part because of a pledge from Governor Doug Ducey. "Don't change your travel plans," he wrote on Twitter. "Arizona is open for business and so is the Grand Canyon!"

But publicly contrasting your state with a dysfunctional federal government doesn't come free. We now know how much Arizona chipped in to keep the gates open at the Grand Canyon.

According to Ducey spokesperson Daniel Scarpinato, Arizona transferred $187,873 to the Department of the Interior this morning to cover the costs of keeping the park open.
Ducey said last week that the state would use funds from the Arizona Parks and Tourism Departments and would work with the National Parks Service to keep the Grand Canyon accessible. There's some precedent for Ducey's action: During the 2013 government shutdown, Arizona's then-Governor Jan Brewer paid $651,000 to keep the Grand Canyon open, but was eventually reimbursed by the feds.

Last week, as negotiations stalled in Congress on a spending measure to keep the lights on, the Trump administration made the head-scratching decision to try to keep national parks and monuments open during a possible shutdown. (Most likely an attempt to avoid negative publicity from aggrieved tourists on vacation.)

A spokesperson for the National Parks Service told New Times via email last week that "in the event of a shutdown, national parks will remain as accessible as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures." 

And while the gates were open at the Grand Canyon, the visitor's center and South Rim museums were closed. Other national parks were technically open, but operating with a skeleton crew, unmanned gates, and locked visitor's centers. You can see how it would be pretty confusing for visitors and tourists from out of state.

A spokesperson for Grand Canyon National Park did not respond to several requests for comment and there was no response to the general phone number for the park due to the shutdown. But Congress has nearly reached a deal to end the impasse — things should be back to normal at the national parks before too long, and Arizona can stop picking up the tab.
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Joseph Flaherty is a staff writer at New Times. Originally from Wisconsin, he is a graduate of Middlebury College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Contact: Joseph Flaherty