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Tusayan Mayor Says Grand Canyon Closure Devastated Town’s Economy

Tusayan Mayor Greg Bryan criticized lawmakers Wednesday for closing the Grand Canyon National Park.

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According to Mayor Bryan, the federal shutdown has devastated the small town near Grand Canyon whose economy is based almost entirely on tourism. During the shutdown, Tusaya had seen hotel occupancy rates fall from about 90 percent to about 40 percent. Federal and private employees were furloughed, rafting trips canceled, and campgrounds, hotels and hiking trails closed. Officials estimate losses in the millions.

The Grand Canyon was one of the most high-profile of the 401 national parks and monuments that closed on Oct. 1 when the federal government shut down because Congress failed to agree on the 2014 budget. Grand Canyon South Rim usually gets 18,000 visitors in October.

Bryan said that even if the Grand Canyon had to be closed, the park service should have used state funds to partly reopen the park, as was the case during the 1995 shutdown.

But, according to National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, the park had to be shut down to comply with federal law. Jarvis also noted that the law blocks the government from performing functions for which money has not been appropriated.

On Oct. 12, state funds were issued to reopen Grand Canyon National Park at a cost of $93,000 per day. The reason it took 10 days to reopen such a high-profile property like Grand Canyon is still unclear.

Early Saturday, politics got pushed aside and park employees who had been furloughed began to remove closure signs from trails, unlock restrooms and restock shelves before allowing vehicle traffic.

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The government shutdown, which ruined Grand Canyon vacations for people across the globe, ended on Oct.17.