Park plans party for 90th birthday

Grand Canyon National Park celebrates its 90th Anniversary on Thursday, Feb. 26, with a celebration to mark the opening of the Verkamp's Visitor Center on the Rim.

It will be at 1:30 p.m. Park Superintendent Steve Martin will speak, with cake to follow. The public is invited. There will also be interpretive programs.

It was on Feb. 26, 1919, that President Woodrow Wilson signed Senate Bill 390, which created Grand Canyon National Park, an unparalleled landscape to be protected and enjoyed for future generations. By the time it became a national park, the Grand Canyon's timeless beauty was well-known throughout the country and beyond.

One of the early entrepreneurs here to serve them was John G. Verkamp, who first sold curios out of a tent near the Bright Angel Trail on the South Rim in 1898.

A few years later, he built and opened Verkamp's Curios. The retail store closed this past September after operating for more than 100 years. The Park Service bought out the interest in the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, with plans to convert it to interpretive use. With support from its partner Grand Canyon Association, the Verkamp's Visitor Center opened in November with exhibits highlighting the history of the Verkamp family and their role in the park and community of Grand Canyon.

Since 1919, millions of people have traveled from around the world to take in the Canyon's awe-inspiring vistas. Yet, the Grand Canyon is not only a tourist destination. It has also been a home to various people off and on for thou

sands of years. The origins and histories of various Native American tribes in the Southwest are closely tied to the Canyon. Settlers from the eastern part of the United States were drawn to the landscape's rugged beauty starting in the middle 19th century.

Today, the Canyon is home to approximately 2,000 year-round residents. Whether taking in the sights on the Rim or descending into its depths, the Canyon has been a source of inspiration for tourists and residents alike. This is one message that the NPS is now trying to convey at the new visitor center with its exhibits and narratives.

Grand Canyon National Park directly contributes approximately $750 million into the economy of the Colorado Plateau. For every $1 million invested in park programs, hundreds of jobs are created, not only in the hospitality industry, but in all aspects of the region's economy.

And as we embark into a time of economic uncertainty, Grand Canyon and other national parks can continue to play a role in the economic stability of our nation realizing that critical functions must be maintained in the face of declining financial resources.

"As we celebrate Grand Canyon National Park's 90th Anniversary and move toward the centennial of the National Park Service in 2016, we should look back at the integral roles the Grand Canyon and the National Park Service have played in our nation's history," said Martin . "And more importantly, we should consider their place in our nation's future."

The Verkamp's Visitor Center is open daily from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and hosts two ranger programs. A rim hike leaves Verkamp's each morning at 10 and a history talk is presented each day at 11 a.m. During the busy summer season, other ranger programs will be offered including children's story time, cultural displays and nature walks. GCA operates a bookstore within the visitor center.

For more information about the celebration and opening of Verkamp's Visitor Center, contact Grand Canyon Public Affairs Officer Maureen Oltrogge at 638-7779 or Park Naturalist David Smith at 638-7765.

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