Grand Canyon, other sites reopen after states dig up funds

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Tourists returned to the Grand Canyon on Saturday after Arizona officials along with several counterparts agreed to a federal government plan to reopen national parks, which had been closed as a result of the partial government shutdown.

But the Obama administration’s OK to reopen tourist areas across the nation came with a big caveat: States must foot the bill with money they likely won’t see again.

So far, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Arizona, and New York have agreed to open parks that had been closed since Oct. 1. Meanwhile, governors in other states were trying to gauge what would be the bigger economic hit — paying to keep the areas operating or losing the tourist money that flows when the attractions are open.


South Dakota and several corporate donors worked out a deal with the National Park Service to reopen Mount Rushmore beginning Monday. Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard said it will cost $15,200 a day to pay the federal government to run the landmark in the Black Hills. He said he has wired four days’ worth of donations.

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In New York, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state will pay $61,600 a day to fully fund Park Service personnel and the Statue of Liberty will reopen Sunday.

In Arizona, Republican Governor Jan Brewer balked at spending about $112,000 a day for a full reopening of the Grand Canyon. She said a partial reopening would be cheaper and still allow tourists to visit and businesses to benefit.

‘‘The daily cost difference is enormous, especially without assurances that Arizona will be reimbursed,’’ said Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder.

In the end, Arizona agreed to pay $651,000 to keep the Grand Canyon open for seven days, which amounts to $93,000 per day. In addition to state money, cash from the town of Tusayan, just outside the South Rim entrance, and private business would be included in the funding.


At this time of year, the Grand Canyon typically draws about 18,000 people a day who pump an estimated $1 million a day into the local economy.

Tusayan and area businesses have pledged $400,000 to help reopen the canyon, but Wilder said it was unclear if the Interior Department could accept private funds.

In Utah, federal workers rushed to reopen five parks for 10 days after the state sent $1.67 million to the US government with the hope of saving its lucrative tourist season.

Zion National Park superintendent Jock Whitworth said they expected to have the park fully operational Saturday.

In Colorado, officials said a deal had been struck for the state to pay $360,000 to reopen Rocky Mountain National Park for 10 days.