Better transportation, parking, and picnicking are among the improvements recently completed on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.
The work is all tied in to the park's South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan, a hefty project long in the making. It was back in May of 2008 that the plan was approved by the Park Service, and since then work on various aspects has been progressing in two phases.
Phase I improvements included "construction of 600 new visitor parking spaces and 40 new commercial tour vehicle parking spaces near the Visitor Center, realignment of the South Entrance Road to the south side of the Visitor Center, closure of the Mather Point parking area and removal of portions of the old South Entrance Road, creation of infrastructure for a new shuttle bus staging area, and revegetation and beautification of impacted areas," park officials said in a release.
Phase II of work began last March and now is substantially complete, according to park officials. Those improvements included:
* completion of the shuttle bus staging area near the Visitor Center;
* construction of 250 additional parking spaces;
* conversion of the shuttle bus stop west of the Visitor Center to picnic pavilions;
* construction of new picnic areas near Mather Point;
* construction of restroom facilities on the north end of the new commercial tour vehicle parking lot;
* removal of the remaining roadway and the parking lot at Mather Point;
* rehabilitation of the Mather Point overlook including making it more universally accessible;
* construction of a new shuttle bus stop at Mather Point;
* construction of an informal amphitheater on the canyon rim east of Mather Point;
* construction of a stone “landmark feature” along the primary walkway between the Visitor Center and the canyon rim, and;
* reconstruction of the plaza area between the Visitor Center and Grand Canyon Books and More, including informal interpretive exhibits.
"Landscaping, revegetation and beautification of impacted areas will continue through the spring as weather allows," park officials said. "Also occurring this spring will be the placement of a large, stone, mountain lion at the Visitor Center plaza."
While much of the "heavy lifting" has been accomplished, more work remains to complete the Transportation Plan. For instance, "within the next few years ... the NPS plans to expand interpretive services at the Visitor Center," a park release said. "These changes will include new interpretive exhibits and an orientation film, improving visitor orientation and wayfinding, and will also include limited food items within the Visitor Center complex. In addition, a temporary bike rental facility has opened at the complex while plans for a more permanent facility are being finalized, and construction of a theater addition to the Visitor Center is under way."
Funding for the Phase I and II improvements, as well as the theater addition, was made available through the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act and through donations to the park’s fundraising partner, Grand Canyon Association, according to the park.