Local News

Calls Continue For Federal Government To Close Grand Canyon National Park

March 28, 2020

 The chorus of those calling for the closure of the Grand Canyon National Park in response to the Coronavirus continues to grow. The Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce, Tusayan business leaders, the Coconino County Board of Supervisors, and Congressman Raul Grijalva, and the Tusayan Fire District  have all publicly called for the closure of the Park.

The Tusayan Town Council has not taken a position. “The Town of Tusayan does not have an official position in regards to the park closure. We leave that decision to the park superintendent,” said Vice Mayor Brady Harris.

The Coconino County Board of Supervisors issued the following statement on March 26th:

“For the safety and health of Coconino County healthcare providers, residents and visitors, the Coconino County Board of Supervisors strongly urge Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to close Grand Canyon National Park due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Board also calls on local, state and federal officials to join the Board in calling for the closure of the park.”

Chairwoman Liz Archuleta told the Watchdog, “We are putting people at risk while it’s (Grand Canyon) open not only employees of the Park but also residents that live within the park and people who live in Tusayan. We have consulted with businesses in Tusayan and they are very vocal and supportive of closing the Park.”

The Board has also sent letters to the Interior Department, the Governor, and elected officials seeking assistance in convincing the Secretary of the Interior to implement the closure.

The Tusayan Fire District sent a letter to the park March 23rd seeking a closure. The letter reads in part:

"We are concerned for our own first responders’ health, and to be able to continue support for the permanent residents of this town. We will reach a point in this situation where we will not be able to support either. For our health and personal safety, PLEASE close Grand Canyon National Park for at least two weeks, then re-evaluate at that point."

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt may have some familiarity with Tusayan and its plight. Bernhardt used to work for Brownstein Hyatt Farber & Schreck, a Washington DC lobbying firm.  After Bernhardt left Brownstein, the Town of Tusayan hired that firm to deal with issues surrounding access to federal lands.

On march 27th  Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva issued the following statement:

“We all love and value Grand Canyon National Park, and I understand public desire to enjoy the outdoors during a stressful time for our country. But public safety demands that the National Park Service prevent large gatherings anywhere in the park, regardless of this administration’s desire to maintain a sense of normalcy. The Centers for Disease Control and the president’s coronavirus task force recommend no gatherings larger than ten people, and with hundreds still crowding at popular national park sites, it’s time for a more serious federal response. Grand Canyon National Park is a federal facility and federal guidelines need to be enforced, whether it makes some government officials uncomfortable or not.”

Grijalva is the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, which has oversight of the National Park Service.

Red Feather Properties Manager Clarinda Vail said, “Our company feels Grand Canyon National Park should close for two weeks, to help reduce the curve and protect our community, and revaluate it then. Our country and businesses are doing this daily. The Grand Canyon National Park and Tusayan are especially vulnerable as we only have a clinic and no hospital beds. Ambulance service is small as one would expect in a small community. I understand Flagstaff is already overwhelmed or will be soon in terms of hospital resources.  The Grand Canyon remaining open makes the situation worse.”

The Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce is also concerned about limited resources as outlined in its letter to the Interior Department. Here is a link.


Glacier National Park in Montana and Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah recently announced their decisions to close. Yellowstone, Grand Teton and the Great Smoky Mountains have already done the same.