Empty parking lots, hotels, and gift shops. Puzzled squirrels, deer, and ravens. Graveyard silence. As the park closure spurred by a Congressional budget impasse began to take hold, a vacated Grand Canyon Village became a veritable gated community for the handful of resident/employees that call the park home. As one of a few who lived through a similar fiasco in 1995, the swing from boom town to ghost town felt eerily familiar. In the guilty pleasure category, it was pleasant if not novel to be alone at an otherwise teeming Mather Point to enjoy a Grand Canyon sunset.
But the tradeoffs are plentiful. Victims range from disappointed folk from around the world being deprived a Grand Canyon experience (often at great expense in cancelled flights, hotels, and tours), to “non-essential” National Park Service staff furloughed from their jobs as interpreters, resource managers, and such, to employees and businesses that were forced to cut back or pack it up during what is typically one of the busier months of the year.
As of this writing, the state of Arizona and a number of private businesses agreed to contribute close to $93,000 per day for a week to re-open the park. What happens once this short term funding period ends is anyone’s guess, but the growing voice from all quarters of our society to the powers that be is clear: stop denying access to public lands to gain political advantage.
I would encourage everyone to contact their elected representatives and let them know your opinions on this very serious matter.