Grand Canyon can't use donations to reopen

2013-10-05T00:00:00Z Grand Canyon can't use donations to reopenBy Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
October 05, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer asked President Obama late Friday to let Grand Canyon National Park reopen with private and state money during the federal government shutdown, saying there’s precedent for the move.

The governor’s request came one day after Dave Uberuaga, the Grand Canyon superintendent, said neither he nor his agency would consider opening all or part of the park with state or private dollars.

Uberuaga said it is unacceptable to open just one park while others remain closed. Beyond that, he said running parks is a “core operation that can only be funded by federal appropriation.”

But Brewer, in her letter to Obama, said that’s not true. She pointed to the fact that the Department of Interior agreed in 1995 to accept $17,000 a day from the state to keep open part of the park during that year’s 21-day federal shutdown.

And Brewer told the president he does not even need to look back that far.

“In March of this year, the National Park Service granted Cape Cod National Seashore the authority to accept private dollars to prevent closures related to the sequester,” Brewer wrote, referring to the across-the-board spending cuts that kicked in earlier this year after the president and Congress could not agree on different cuts.

In that case, the deputy regional parks director agreed to a request to have the Friends of Cape Cod National Seashore run the Province Lands Visitor Center. That came after a $376,000 reduction in the park’s remaining budget for the fiscal year and the loss of 22 employees.

“The Grand Canyon should not be held hostage in this budget battle,” Brewer wrote to Obama.

“The Grand Canyon is more than Arizona’s most treasured natural landmark,” she continued. “It is a global attraction and driving source of national and international tourism.”

By contrast, less than a week ago Brewer caused a stir when asked about using state funds to keep the park open, and she responded, “I don’t know if the Grand Canyon is a priority for the state of Arizona.”

But Brewer press aide Andrew Wilder said she was focused on “other concerns in light of the shutdown,” like benefits for children and the needy that would be interrupted. And he said the governor has also been concerned with the state’s “precarious financial situation.”

“The state is not in a position to bail out the federal government or pay the federal government’s bills,” Wilder said.

But since then there have been not only loud concerns from individuals and businesses affected by the park’s closure, including from tourists, but also various offers of private dollars.

“We hope that you will reopen our national parks or allow us to do it ourselves,” Brewer wrote to Obama, saying the ideal solution would be for the president to support a House resolution to restore funding for the National Park Service, and only the National Park Service.

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