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Ducey: Government shutdown or not, Grand Canyon remains open to visitors

December 22, 2018

The government might shut down, but the Grand Canyon will remain open to the millions of visitors who come to Arizona each year to take in the spectacular natural wonder, many of them stopping through town for gas, food and lodging.

Visitor services will continue under the Grand Canyon Protection Plan, providing access to trails, shuttles and public restrooms, Gov. Doug Ducey said Friday.

“Regardless of what happens in Washington, the Grand Canyon will not close on our watch,” Ducey said in a prepared statement.

“Arizona knows how to work together. We have a plan in place and we’re ready to go. If you have plans to visit the Grand Canyon over the weekend, keep them. The Grand Canyon will remain open.”

Arizona Office of Tourism and Arizona State Parks and Trails, in coordination with the National Park Service and local municipalities and businesses, will work together to ensure visitor services continue at the Grand Canyon.

Tourism at Grand Canyon National Park provides a big slice of income for many businesses in Kingman, said Ryan Davis, general manager of Cracker Barrel restaurant and a 16-year resident of Kingman.

He gets about six busloads of tourists a week stopping at Cracker Barrel, each with 40 to 50 people on board. He’s seen a huge spike in customers from foreign countries, all related to the Grand Canyon.

“Every year, it grows in traffic,” Davis said. “It’s an incredible source of tourism and bus traffic. I’m grateful for the business it brings to town, and it covers us during the slower times.”

Davis said he was managing a Cracker Barrel in Prescott during a previous government shutdown, and it was “horrible for Arizona.”

Under the governor’s protection plan, visitors to the Grand Canyon will have access to hiking trails, campsites and public restrooms; shuttle bus service throughout the park; trash collection and snow removal; and public safety functions, such as police, fire and medical.

It costs $64,383 to keep the park open for a week, said Patrick Ptak, spokesman for the Governor’s Office. If the government shuts down, nobody will be staffing the entrance booths, so it will be essentially free for visitors, he noted.

“The Grand Canyon has an outsized economic impact on Arizona,” Ptak said. He cited a 2016 study that showed a $650 million and 10,000 jobs for surrounding communities.

Ducey issued an executive order to keep the Grand Canyon open in February following continued dysfunction in Washington that shut down the government for several days.

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