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6:17 AM Mon, Oct. 15th

Without budget deal, Arizona must front funds for Grand Canyon



PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona will have to send more cash to the federal government by late Wednesday if Congress still hasn't passed a budget and the state wants the Grand Canyon National Park to remain open this weekend.

The state is paying $93,000 a day to keep the park open for seven days, ending Friday. But under the agreement Gov. Jan Brewer struck with the federal government last Friday, the deal must be extended at least 48 hours before it expires if the canyon is to stay open.

That's because it takes two days to close the park, and the National Park Service can't continue operating without funding, according to the agreement.

A decision on keeping the park open using state and other resources will be made as the deadline approaches, Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder said Monday. It will depend on available state, local and private funds and what's happening with budget negotiations in Washington.

The Grand Canyon is the only national park or monument open in Arizona. The rest remain closed until the federal government reopens.

The Grand Canyon closed for only the second time in nearly 100 years on Oct. 1 after Congress failed to pass a budget to fund government operations.

Businesses that rely on canyon visitors from around the globe collected funds to help pay for a reopening. Brewer was among several governors who asked the federal government to allow them to pay for park operations.

The park attracts about 18,000 tourists a day from around the world this time of year, and the closure meant tour groups, river rafters and hikers lost access to it.

The Grand Canyon reopened Saturday morning. Weekend visitor counts weren't available, but park spokeswoman Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski said all 320 sites at Mather Campground were filled and traffic on the road leading to the park was still heavy Monday.

Four other states also struck deals with the Interior Department to open some of their national parks or monuments.

Utah is paying to keep open Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion national parks, plus Cedar Breaks and Natural bridges national monuments and the Glen Canyon National Recreation area. Colorado is paying to reopen Rocky Mountain Park; South Dakota reopened Mount Rushmore; and New York reopened the Statue of Liberty National Monument.

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