As the government shutdown grinds on, a breakthrough has opened up Grand Canyon National Park!
The road to the launch ramp for the start of downstream river trips through Grand Canyon was closed on October 1 at its junction with Highway 89A at Marble Canyon, AZ. A backlog of public river runners immediately formed at the concrete road barriers. River runners from around the world had come to Northern Arizona to experience Grand Canyon’s unique wilderness river experience. With camping supplies and food for twenty one to twenty five days, the river runners set up camp in an adjacent dirt parking lot they call “Dirt Eddy.”
As the shutdown continued, many river runners packed up and tried to run other rivers or simply went home, only to be replaced by the next groups of river runners ready to launch. Since the closing of the road on October 1, sixteen do-it-yourself river trips have been barred from launching, and five concessions guided trips have been unable to launch as well.
After a firestorm of bad press and many calls to government officials around the country, on Monday October 7, Grand Canyon National Park announced an “Accommodation Plan” for river runners unable to launch, available to river runners who decide to take advantage of the plan up to three days after the Government reopens. The plan includes a refund of the $100 per person fee charged to public river runners, and a reschedule option allowing the trip leader to apply for a trip in the next three years. The NPS noted the requested dates may not be available, but that a date close to the requested launch date should be.
The Accommodation Plan may be seen here:
On Wednesday October 9, the Obama Administration discussed allowing states impacted by the closure of the National Park Service to pay for the Parks to stay open as it became clear the closure of the National Parks was causing serious harm to park visitors, leaving employees without income, and demolishing the economies of communities adjacent to the Parks.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert struck a deal with Secretary of Interior Sally Jewel on October 10, and Utah wired the Department of Interior $1.67 million, or $166,572 a day to re-open eight National Parks within the State for ten days only. One of those parks opened was Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which manages Lee’s Ferry and the Lee’s Ferry Road. The concrete barriers were removed Friday morning, October 11, and access to the Ferry was resumed at noon local time.
Meanwhile, negotiations between Interior officials and Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona finally resulted in a deal late today. Under the terms of the agreement, Arizona will donate funds to the National Park Service for the sole purpose of enabling National Park Service employees to re-open and manage Grand Canyon National Park. The agreement funds the park for a period of seven days, running from October 12 through October 18 at the donated amount of $651,000.
River trips rigging this afternoon will be allowed to launch tomorrow, Saturday, October 12.