PHOENIX - The gates to the Grand Canyon National Park opened Saturday morning after Gov. Jan Bewer successfully negotiated a deal with officials.
Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga said crews began removing closure signs, opening restrooms and restocking at 4 a.m. Saturday. The first gate opened just before 6 a.m.
Gov. Jan Brewera made the announcement on Twitter Friday afternoon.
The tweet read "Great news! I've just negotiated a deal for #AZ to fully reopen @GrandCanyonNPS tomorrow!"
The Grand Canyon, along with all other national parks, was closed by the government shutdown that took effect October 1.
According to a statement released by the Department of Interior, Arizona state funds will allow the park to be open from October 12-18.
After the seven days, the state will reassess whether they have enough funding to keep the park open any longer.
The state will give the National Park Service $651,000 to reopen the park, that’s roughly $93,000 a day. The money will allow the full reopening of the park.
The town of Tusayan announced earlier this week they raised $426,000 to help fund the opening. According to the Governor’s office, $200,000 of that money will help pay for the opening.
The mayor of Tusayan estimates a million-dollars has been lost in city revenue since the park’s closure.
Mayor Greg Bryan says he’s ready to get people back to work. “We can get our park open again and begin doing what we do best, taking care of our visitors."
The Red Feather Lodge is among those hurting and hoping for a trickle-down effect with the reopening of the Grand Canyon.
"Every one of those guests coming, they're staying at a hotel, they're eating at a restaurant, and they’re buying in a gift shop, so it's really good for the economy,” said General Manager Julie Aldaz.
The hotel is at 30% capacity at a time of year when it should be 90%. Aldaz says employees' hours have been cut at a time many try to bank extra cash before the holidays. With news of the reopening, the Red Feather Lodge put front desk and housekeeping staff on-call anticipating a rush of guests.
“Now if the government would fully come back, that would be great,” said Aldaz.
In a statement emailed Friday afternoon, Brewer said “With a long weekend in front of us, I am thrilled Grand Canyon will be open and fully operational – not only for our national and global travelers who have long-awaited to experience one of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders, but for the nearby businesses and communities whose livelihood depends on the tourism it attracts."
At this time of year, the Grand Canyon draws about 18,000 people a day who pump an estimated $1 million a day into the local economy.
Some other national parks reopened earlier in the day, including in Utah, Colorado and South Dakota.
The Statue of Liberty in New York will reopen Sunday to the public.
The National Park Service is warning visitors headed to the Grand Canyon this weekend that it will be slow going the first two days in some spots. River permits, all park concession and lodge services will still have limited staffing.
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