/ Modified oct 10, 2013 3:41 p.m.

North AZ Towns Losing Millions Over Closure of Grand Canyon

Government shutdown costing the region about $12M, estimates say; town of Tusayan has felt much impact since most income comes from canyon's tourism.

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The Obama administration announced it will allow states to use their own money to open national parks.

That means the Grand Canyon may be reopening soon, giving the northern Arizona a much-needed economic boost.

The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees estimates the region has lost almost $12 million in the last 10 days due to the canyon's shutdown.

That impact is most felt in the town of Tusayan, which sits at the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park.

“We as a town, our businesses, are losing anywhere between $150,000-$200,000 a day,” said Will Wright, town manager of Tusayan.

He estimates that the town has lost 80 percent of its daily income, and the remaining 20 percent comes from plane and helicopter tours, since airspace over the canyon isn’t shut down.

Tusayan has less than 600 full-time residents, and the town’s economy is pretty much based on Grand Canyon tourism.

“Those dollars, it’s important to remember, equate to people’s livelihoods," Wright said.

That lost revenue has hit the town hard. So hard that Phoenix-based Saint Mary’s Food Bank has begun handing out food to many Tusayan residents.

Wright also gave out another number that indicates the CNPSR may be a little low in their estimate.

“There’s $467 million a year generated from the Grand Canyon, so it’s $1.3 million dollars a day for northern Arizona’s losses,” he explained.

Wright’s figure for total losses after 10 days add an extra million dollars to the report’s estimate, putting the total at around $12.8 million so far.

Both estimates show a tremendous amount of money lost in a short amount of time for the numerous small communities that see tourist dollars thanks to the canyon.

Williams is the starting point for the Grand Canyon Railway, a train that runs to the south rim.

The railway is keeping staff busy by setting up their Christmas attraction early.

“We’re actually using some of our staff out in Williams that aren’t working on the train to get the lights up and get ready for the Polar Express,” said Bruce Brossman, the Grand Canyon regional marketing director for Xanterra Resorts.

He also said the train is ready for when the canyon reopens.

“We’ve got people who can fire that thing up and take people to the Grand Canyon in less than 24 hours of the park reopening," Brossman said.

But until the canyon reopens, northern Arizona will continue to lose more than $1 million per day.

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