Towns, States Ponying Up to Keep Parks Open
The Arizona town of Tusayan, on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, has 558 residents and 1,000 hotel rooms. And by Saturday (Oct. 5), it had $350,000 to reopen temporarily closed Grand Canyon National Park.
"The reason we exist is the Grand Canyon National Park. This closure is devastating," said Greg Bryan, Tusayan's mayor and general manager of a Best Western hotel. The town is offering to fund a partial reopening of the park that would allow visitors to drive through on a main road and stop at overlooks.
The Wall Street Journal reported that as the federal-government shutdown drags on, state and local governments were searching for ways to keep attractions open, especially in places where local economies largely depend on the parks. Some are willing to pay to keep the parks going during these final crucial weeks of prime tourist season, before winter sets in.
In Wisconsin, officials are keeping seven federally subsidized state-owned forest, wildlife and recreation areas open, even after receiving instructions from the federal Department of the Interior to close them. The state lands depend on federal funds for 18% of their budgets, or $701,000 total.
"I really don't think it is a defiance, but fulfilling our obligations," said Cathy Stepp, an official with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which administers the state properties. "We are doing everything we can with social media, radio outlets and news to get the word out that we're open. The calls are coming in like crazy—people are planning to come here with camping trips every year, weddings, reunions."
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