State aid to Grand Canyon deficient, overdue
The Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona’s largest tourist attraction and a huge source of revenue for the state, reopened this week after being closed to visitors due to the government shutdown. This reopening is long overdue, as the state should have funded the Grand Canyon’s operations earlier.
The Grand Canyon, listed as a natural wonder of the world, is one of America’s most popular national parks and the location attracts millions of tourists, vacationers and campers each year.
Social media has been buzzing with activity, specifically protests, concerning the government shutdown. Hundreds of national parks workers, as well as small business owners and employees, have been joined by international tourists and national park enthusiasts protesting the shutdown and its economic implications.
Emily Sylvia, a global studies senior, and Sebastian Hernandez, a senior studying molecular and cellular biology, had taken time off from work and planned to travel to the Grand Canyon for their anniversary but were unable to do so due to its closure.
“We were both really upset,” Sylvia said. “They refunded our money but it was the only time we could go together that would have had nice weather.”
Gov. Jan Brewer said it will cost $651,000 to run the park for one week. Although that might seem like a lot, the entire state budget totals around $9 billion, and the majority of the cost of keeping the park open is paid for by the revenue it generates.
Also, Arizona has a $450 million “rainy day fund” that can be tapped in situations such as this, to help small, local businesses that rely on tourism. The area surrounding the national park includes on-site lodging, stores and restaurants that rely heavily on Grand Canyon visitors.
Will Wright, the town manager of Tusayan, which is just south of the Grand Canyon, estimated that the approximately 48 small businesses in Tusayan are collectively losing between $210,000 and $250,000 daily because the park isn’t open.
This economic impact is even more important because the non-government workers of the town of Tusayan and non-government affiliated tour service workers are not eligible for the back-pay that furloughed government employees will receive. The damage sustained by these businesses is permanent — the income is lost and cannot be recovered.
Tusayan City Councilman Craig Sanderson is worried about the long-term impact on small businesses that can’t afford to sustain losses for even a week. “[The shutdown] affects us all. It’s not just the short term, it’s the long term,” he told the Arizona Republic.
If the state had reopened the Grand Canyon earlier, a lot of this lost revenue wouldn’t have been lost. Although reopening is indeed welcome, it came too late to spare local small businesses from a lot of hardship. The majesty of our wonder of the world shouldn’t be shut down due to a failure of leadership in Washington, and it certainly should not negatively affect hard working Americans during their peak season for business.
Nick Havey is a sophomore studying pre-physiology and Spanish. Follow him @nihavey.