Officials at Grand Canyon National Park have been trying for years to reduce the congestion on the South Rim caused by private vehicles. On September 12, the park staff will celebrate several new facilities that they hope will encourage additional auto-free travel in the busy park.
The day's events will begin at 10 a.m., when Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga will host a ribbon cutting at the new trailhead and parking lot located on the Kaibab National Forest at the north end of the gateway community of Tusayan, Arizona. The new facility is a short distance outside the South Entrance to the park.
New Parking Area Serves Tusayan Greenway and Free Seasonal Shuttle
The parking lot’s 100 new spaces will serve both the Tusayan Greenway and as additional parking in future years for visitors who choose to park and ride the National Park Service’s seasonal Tusayan Shuttle. That free service ends for this year on September 7, but other key parts of the shuttle system will operate through November on the park's South Rim.
The recently completed Tusayan Greenway extends from the new parking lot to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, a distance of approximately six and one-half miles. A park spokesperson notes, "Completion of this segment of greenway is another important step in the implementation of the park’s greenway trail system and provides safe, direct, multi-modal access to the park’s primary visitor center for those entering the park on foot, bicycle or horseback."
“The park’s greenway trail system now totals 18-and-one-half miles and the paved sections meet Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas,” stated Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga. “It offers visitors and park residents of varying abilities a great opportunity to enjoy the park without their cars. Additionally, the Tusayan Greenway is shared by a portion of the Arizona Trail.”
New Trailhead for the Arizona Trail
The Arizona Trail stretches more than 800 miles from Mexico to the Utah border through Arizona’s canyons, deserts, and forests, and the new parking lot will also serve as a trailhead for that route.
"We were pleased to be partners in a project that involves the Arizona Trail Association, the community of Tusayan, the Grand Canyon National Park, and the Kaibab National Forest,” said Kaibab National Forest Supervisor Mike Williams. “We look forward to continuing our partnership in offering this improved recreational opportunity. The trail and parking area are going to benefit many different kinds of visitors to the Tusayan area.”
Uberuaga added, “I think it’s important to note that construction of the Tusayan Greenway was made possible in part thanks to funding from the Grand Canyon Greenway endowment established by the Nina Mason Pullium Charitable Trust in 2001. The Greenway endowment demonstrates the public’s strong support for park improvements that enhance the visitor’s experience.”
Open House for New Bicycle Rental and Cafe at Park Visitor Center Plaza
Following the ribbon cutting at the parking lot in Tusayan, there will be an open house at the new Bike Rental and Cafe located at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center plaza. Bright Angel Bicycles, L.L.C., a new small business, was recently awarded the park’s first contract to provide bicycles rentals and food service at the Bike Rental and Cafe which opened in June. Services and products include guided bicycle tours, bicycle rentals and repairs, specialty coffees, sandwiches and grab-and-go snacks.
“Public response to the availability of both bike rentals and food service near the park’s primary visitor center has been tremendous,” said Uberuaga. “It’s very exciting to see so many people taking advantage of the opportunity to explore the canyon rim in a whole new way.”
Representatives of the National Park Service (NPS), the U.S. Forest Service, Grand Canyon Association, and Tusayan Chamber of Commerce will be speaking at the ribbon cutting. The public is invited to attend and encouraged to bring bicycles and ride to the open house afterward—a 13-mile round-trip ride.
The parking lot, greenway and bike rental facility all support the 2008 South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan, a plan that envisioned improved traffic flow, adequate parking and multi-modal access to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.