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Grand Canyon re-opens to tourists

  • Hundreds of tourists wait in the cramped terminal at Grand Canyon Airport to wait their turn for helicopter and plane tours as the only way they could see the Grand Canyon as the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park remains closed to visitors due to the continued federal government shutdown on Friday Oct. 11, 2013, in Tusayan, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Tourists returned to the Grand Canyon on Saturday after Arizona officials along with several counterparts agreed to a federal government plan to reopen national parks, which had been closed as a result of the partial government shutdown.

But the Obama administration's OK to reopen tourist areas across the nation came with a big caveat: States must foot the bill with money they likely won't see again.

So far, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Arizona and New York have agreed to open parks that had been closed since the beginning of the month. Meanwhile, governors in other states were trying to gauge what would be the bigger economic hit — paying to keep the areas operating or losing the tourist money that flows when the scenic attractions are open.

South Dakota and several corporate donors worked out a deal with the National Park Service to reopen Mount Rushmore beginning Monday. Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard said it will cost $15,200 a day to pay the federal government to run the landmark in the Black Hills. He said he has wired four days' worth of donations.

In New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state will pay $61,600 a day to fully fund Park Service personnel and the Statue of Liberty will open Sunday.

In Arizona, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer balked at spending about $112,000 a day for a full reopening of the Grand Canyon. She said a partial reopening would be much cheaper while allowing tourists to visit and businesses to benefit.

"The daily cost difference is enormous, especially without assurances that Arizona will be reimbursed," said Andrew Wilder, a spokesman for Brewer.

In the end, Arizona agreed to pay the Park Service $651,000 to keep the Grand Canyon open for seven days. The $93,000 a day is less than the $112,000 the federal government had said was needed to fund park operations each day.

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