By Nick Worth
Andrew Wilder, spokesman for Governor Jan Brewer, announced Arizona has received a refund of some of the money it sent to reopen the Grand Canyon during the recent partial government shutdown. The $186,000 in refunded money was not used to run the park during the budget shutdown.
During the shutdown, the state paid the National Park Service $651,000 to keep Grand Canyon National Park open for one week and Brewer said she would send more money from the state tourism budget, if needed. The $651,000 was enough to keep the popular tourist destination open for a week.
Fortunately, federal lawmakers reached an agreement on the budget before those seven days were up.
According to Wilder, Arizona received the refund of $186,000 last Friday. The returned funds were divided between the state tourism office and the town of Tusayan, which had contributed $200,000 toward the effort to keep the park open.
Mayor Will Wright of Tusayan said at the time his town was losing more than that in revenue each day the park was closed. Grand Canyon visitors spend as much as $1.3 million each day in the Northern Arizona area and the canyon was turning away more than 18,000 visitors per day during the shutdown.
In addition to the $200,000 from the town of Tusayan, 12 private firms ranging from air tour operators and lodges in Tusayan to a jeweler in Flagstaff and a brewery in Williams donated another $200,000-plus to the effort.
Wilder said Arizona will now seek support from its congressional delegation to be reimbursed for the remaining $465,000. During a government shutdown in 1995, a similar deal with the National Park Service cost Arizona $17,000 per day to keep the canyon open, money which was eventually paid back.
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By Nick Worth