If a federal government shutdown closes Grand Canyon National Park, Gov. Jan Brewer won’t follow the playbook of her predecessor, who vowed keep the park open with state resources – and National Guard troops – if necessary.
With Arizona still struggling through a severe fiscal crisis, Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said the governor has no plans to use state money to keep Grand Canyon National Park open, in large part because the state doesn’t have the money to do so.
“To the extent that federal parks are going to close during a shutdown, they’re just going to shut down,” Benson said.
During the November 1995 federal shutdown, then-Gov. Fife Symington sparked a theatrical showdown with the feds when he demanded that Arizona be allowed to keep the park open itself. Symington went to the park with 50 unarmed National Guard troops, state parks officials and Department of Public Safety officers, and banged on the gates in front of the television cameras, demanding that the park be reopened.
Symington said Brewer should follow his example and keep the Grand Canyon open if there’s a federal shutdown.
“I wasn’t going to let that happen and I don’t think Gov. Brewer should let that happen. We should go all out to keep the park open, whatever it takes,” Symington told our reporter. “If the government actually tries to shut the gates and not allow people to drive into Mather Point, then she should launch the National Guard and they should go up and assist the national park personnel in terms of traffic control and policing the area, and keep the national park open.”
Symington reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior to keep the park open during a second shutdown that began in December, and the feds later reimbursed the state for its efforts. He said Brewer could forge a similar agreement.
“What they should do is just fax them a copy of the agreement that we signed and negotiated and use the same framework. It worked before, and it can work again. The precedent’s been set,” Symington said.