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Canyon visitors caught
in Congress' great divide

November 19, 1995
Web posted at: 1:20 a.m. EST

From Reporter Jim Hill

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Arizona (CNN) -- Visitors to Grand Canyon National Park who come looking for a view of mother nature are finding a sobering view of human nature.

The budget stalemate in Washington has closed the park to visitors and limited their view of the natural wonder to roadside views.


One tourist who traveled from Brazil to see the park was among the thousands turned away Saturday. "I feel very bad because I spent all that money and all that time to get here, and not being able to see the full extent of the canyon is very disappointing." (120K AIFF sound or 118K WAV sound)

The park, which draws up to 5 million visitors yearly, is among the most popular of the 369 national parks closed after federal workers were sent home Tuesday to wait out the budget stand-off.

On Friday, Arizona Gov. Fife Symington sent a contingent of National Guard troops to replace federal workers and keep the park open. The Interior Department rejected the plan, however, citing the state's lack of legal authority to run the park.

"There's no economic reason to close the park," said Symington after receiving the news. "I think we're just a political pawn in this budget struggle."


Symington had offered to use part of the park's entrance fees to offset the costs of running the park. He proposed that the state pay some of the salaries of the federal employees, but the Interior Department's lawyers said there are other costs not covered by his offer, such as power, water, sewer, maintenance and liability expenses.

"We are in uncharted territory here, and cannot proceed lightly," the letter said.

In an appearance on CNN, Symington said his office was still negotiating with the Interior Department and was optimistic the park would be opened.

David Barna, chief of public affairs for the National Parks Service, said park service employees remaining on the job are nothing more than security personnel. "There are less than 2,000 employees now, all who are standing by the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell, and other sites, not allowing anyone to enter and making sure nothing catches on fire," he said.

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