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Grand Canyon Natioanl Park Reopens
In an attempt to stave off jet-lag from the African safari trip (which blog report will be continued in the next few days) and stay awake during daylight hours in the Mountain Time Zone, we planned a drive to Grand Canyon National Park to shoot the deserted rim viewpoints. And then word came late yesterday that the park was opening at 8 AM today thanks to a gift from the Arizona Department of Tourism, who had $400,000 diverted from their budget to give (not donate) to open the Park. We drove up anyway, arriving at 9:30, hoping that no one had heard. Fat chance. There were already swarms of people although much lighter than a normal Columbus day weekend. A surprise guest appearance was spotted!
As official residents of the Park, we could have entered during the closed period if we were on official business. A Grand Canyon Association member was donating foodstuffs and toiletries to canyon employees who have been without a paycheck for 11 days. Here Helen and the donor load the goods into our car. It is unimaginable how far and wide this shutdown has reverberated, across entities far removed from the Federal service.
We first went to Mather Point, easily the most visited viewpoint in the Park. The squirrels were even confused - this one had lost all fear of humans - or was he starving from his 11 day diet?
The crowds were lighter than normal but things will be back to normal in no time. We talked to some visitors who were otherwise completing their trips to the west and just happened to hear that the Park was opening. So they hopped in for a view.
Then we heard that there was going to be a surprise speech about the opening.
A few minutes after 11 AM, Governor Jan Brewer walked up to a lecturn to officially announce the gift from the State Tourism department.
Behind Governor Brewer is Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga and on the right is the Mayor of Tusayan, Greg Bryan.
Remarks by Mayor Bryan.
And then the Mayor handed another gift to Governor Brewer.
It was a check for $426,500, apparently from businesses in Tusayan that were dying to have the Park reopened. Governor Brewer expresses her glee upon receiving the check.
Superintendent Uberuaga (Super Dave) reminded the crowd of 60 people who had gathered, that the shutdown has been an enormous burden on everyone even remotely connected to the Park. Heck, I am a freelance trail guide and author without much of a connection to the bureaucracy and I have been affercted with cancelled hikes and loss of book sales in the Park.
It was unfortunate, in my opinion, that Governor Brewer turned what otherwise was a very festive event into a quick show of political brinkmanship, mentioning on numerous occasions (and in the combative and defiant tone we've heard too often from her), that "the Federal government needs to do their job". The obvious message being that it is Federalism that is at fault here. (Hello, did anyone tell her that Tea Party Republicans are holding the government hostage to make ineffective their own President?). It was amazing that someone in such a high office could give a speech that was so obviously slanted and meant to pick a fight.
Governor Brewer took three questions, I asked one of them. The money is for Grand Canyon only - none of the other Parks or Monuments in Arizona will open at this time
Somehow or another Super Dave got his hands on the check.
The happy crew.
All of the news channels were there to cover the event, which likely will make some of the national feeds tonight.
We think Dave is a fantastic representative for the Park and contrary to some reports, he has been nothing but positive to everyone who has been affected by this. None more that the private boaters in Grand Canyon who planned their trips in some instances for decades, only to have their trips squashed by petty ideologies in Washington DC. Face it folks, our political system is broken and needs fixing.
Grand Canyon is open!