Twenty-five days into the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, life in the developed areas of the Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim is oddly normal. Visitors continue to cluster on the overlooks, slip and slide down the snow-covered trails, frequent the eateries, souvenir shop in the retail outlets, and retire at day’s end in the lodges.
To the untrained eye, it is business as usual. Missing are access to the Visitor Centers, interpretive ranger talks and walks, Backcountry Office permitting and crucial advice for below-the-rim hikers, scientific study, and a myriad of other critical National Park Service-specific visitor services.
Much of the current “normalcy” has been made possible by emergency funding by the state of Arizona, whose governor has pledged to keep the state’s number one tourist attraction open indefinitely.
Most recently, a controversial tapping of the Federal Land and Recreation Enhancement Funds has been approved to allow a targeted NPS presence at the entrance stations; not to exact entrance fees, but in an informational capacity.
These funds are earmarked for future projects, and using them for basic maintenance and custodial needs is seen by critics as jeopardizing the future of our national parks to address a reckless political standoff.
With a fresh six inches of snow on the ground this morning, the park looks as magical as ever. Hopefully the frosty relations in the nation’s Capital will thaw sooner than this overnight bounty, and Grand Canyon National Park can once again be the professionally operated, fully-accessible destination that visitors deserve.