Arizona Republic (Phoenix)
Wednesday, September 20, 2023 6:14 p.m. MT
Gov. Katie Hobbs says Grand Canyon to remain open if federal government shuts down
Grand Canyon National Park will remain open even if the federal government shuts down at the end of the month, which has caused chaos at national parks in the past.
Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, said Wednesday afternoon that she was prepared to continue a strategy first used by Republican former Gov. Doug Ducey to use state funds to keep the park open.
“Arizona should not have to suffer because of the federal government’s inaction,” Hobbs said in a statement to The Arizona Republic. “The Grand Canyon is a pillar of our state and provides good paying jobs for hundreds of Arizonans while showcasing one of the seven natural wonders of the world to those who visit. I am proud to offer resources to keep the park open and am committed to ensuring Arizonans are protected from Washington’s failure.”
Congress has hit an apparent stalemate on bills to fund the federal government, and without a breakthrough compromise by Sept. 30, the federal government will partially shut down on Oct. 1, affecting everything from the Internal Revenue Service to the National Guard.
Ducey chose to pay to maintain park staff when the federal government shut down briefly in early 2018 during President Donald Trump's term. The National Park Service at the time allowed parks to remain open without staff.
Ducey issued an executive order to provide state funds in the event the government shut down again, which it did before the end of that year, when the federal government went mostly dark for 35 days, stretching into January 2019.
During that shutdown, state funding maintained trash collection, custodial services for restrooms and snow removal on trails and sidewalks. But the visitors center and contact stations were closed, and no ranger-lead tours were provided.
A Republic reporter visiting the park during that shutdown found the gates were open but nobody was taking the entrance fees.
The National Park Service said at the time that visitors who already had permits for camping or river trips could proceed but no new permits could be issued during the shutdown.
The park set a record in 2018 with more than 6.3 million visitors who spend almost $1 billion in the state, according to data from a visitation study.
Visitation has been down since then, but the park remains a vital part of the state economy.
Other parks suffered during that 2018-19 shutdown, including Joshua Tree National Park, which saw visitors creating new roads and destroying the park's iconic trees during the shutdown. Other parks had similar problems during that shutdown.
Other states similarly are hoping to avoid problems at their parks.
Utah media reported Tuesday that lawmakers in that state are working on similar plans to keep that state's five national parks open should the government shut down this month.
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