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Arizona Can’t Reopen Grand Canyon

Arizona’s Republican leaders, known for picking fights with the federal government, are seething again now that the Grand Canyon is closed because of the budget crisis in Washington.

Grand Canyon
David McNew, Getty Images

Gov. Jan Brewer wants the state’s signature national park reopened and has offered to pay for it with state money, but her proposal was rejected Thursday by a park official who said that as long as the federal government remains shut down, such a plan isn’t an option.

“I appreciate the support and I thanked them for the offer, but it’s not an offer we can accept,” said park superintendent Dave Uberuaga.

The shutdown that began Tuesday has led to furloughs for about 2,200 people who work at the Grand Canyon National Park and its hotels. “And that’s not counting the economic impact in the gateway communities, all of the related businesses, the bus tours, hiking companies, the jeep tours, all of those associated functions are suffering economically as well,” Uberuaga said.

Many of those businesses also have offered to chip in to pay to reopen the park.

Nationally, at least one other governor also has been turned back in a similar effort. South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard had offered to use state employees to keep Mount Rushmore open.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin. “Why wouldn’t the federal government let local communities or states assist in keeping some of these things open?”

Arizona leaders have a history of bumping heads with federal officials, including fights over illegal immigration and control of public lands. Brewer made headlines early last year when she pointed her finger at President Barack Obama. And in 1995, the last time a government shutdown closed the Grand Canyon, the governor called in the National Guard to get the site reopened.

Then-Gov. Fife Symington, a strong states’ rights supporter, led a convoy of unarmed troops to the park’s gate. They were met there by the superintendent who negotiated for a partial reopening if the budget impasse continued, Symington recalled in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press.

The shutdown was briefly solved, but when the parks were again closed a month later, the state paid more than $17,000 a day to keep the road to Mather Point and the Grand Canyon Village open.

“I think they knew that we were serious: We were going to open the park if they shut it and kept it shut,” said Symington, a Republican who battled the federal government on several fronts.

Such action isn’t likely this time around. “This is not 1995,” said Brewer’s spokesman Andrew Wilder.

Still, Wilder said, the governor wants “to see the Grand Canon opened as soon as possible, but its gates are closed because there’s a failure in Washington, D.C.”

 

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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