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Tue, Oct. 15

Shutdown 101: What to expect from Grand Canyon when the government shuts down

The Grand Canyon Protection Plan was put in place in Feruary 2018 to keep the park operational in the face of a government shutdown. (Erin Ford/WGCN)

The Grand Canyon Protection Plan was put in place in Feruary 2018 to keep the park operational in the face of a government shutdown. (Erin Ford/WGCN)

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — While many American’s won’t feel harsh effects of a government shutdown, national and international visitors who have been planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Grand Canyon might feel a few moments of panic with their vacation plans in flux.

National monuments and parks are often the first thing to close in the wake of a shutdown, since funding to keep them operating is tied to Congress’ hefty budget for the entire year. That means that, even though the gates may technically be open at some parks (not all), visitor services will be closed —including park concessions, restrooms and visitor centers.

It also means all park employees deemed non-critical are furloughed throughout the duration of the shutdown — most employees are sent home without pay and critical positions, such as law enforcement and trash pick-up, will work without immediate pay during the closure. Congress has historically approved retroactive pay for NPS employees.

And while it seems like a gift that families may get to enjoy a national park or monument for free in some places, there is a trade-off – no rangers are on hand to enhance the experience with programs and information, or to ensure visitor safety. Vandalism and damage to park resources are also possible.

Grand Canyon Protection Plan

During previous shutdowns, Grand Canyon National Park has left the gates to the park open, but no rangers will be at the gates to collect visitor fees. This is one of the largest hits to the park during a shutdown – 80 percent of visitor fees collected stay at Grand Canyon, supporting park operations and helping chip away at maintenance costs.

In Feb. 2018, following a January shutdown, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed an executive order creating the Grand Canyon Protection Plan. Because Grand Canyon tourism is the premier economic driver in the state, lawmakers committed to funding the park’s operation during all future government shutdowns. The plan is a collaboration between local, state and federal partners to make sure operations at Grand Canyon continue as normal — providing all services visitors expect in a national park.

The Grand Canyon Protection Plan ensures visitors will have access to all NPS-operated programs and amenities, including trails and hiking opportunities, restrooms and campsites. The free shuttle bus service will remain operational, and crews will continue to provide trash collections and snow removal services if necessary.

“Regardless of what happens in Washington, the Grand Canyon will not close on our watch,” said Governor Ducey. “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 ‘em. The Grand Canyon will remain open.”

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