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Improved Mather Point and Visitor Center Plaza Areas Now Open to Public

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A more universally accessible Mather Point reopened to the public on December 17.
NPS Photo by Michael Quinn

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News Release Date: January 6, 2011
Contact: Shannan Marcak, 928-638-7958

Grand Canyon, Ariz. – Phase II of the improvements called for in the South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan/Environmental Assessment (Transportation Plan)is now substantially complete; and Mather Point and the Visitor Center plaza areas have reopened for public use.

In May of 2008, a Finding of No Significant Impact for the Transportation Plan was signed by the Regional Director for the Intermountain Region of the National Park Service (NPS).The new plan emphasized collaboration with adjacent communities, businesses, partners and other agencies and focused on enhancing visitor safety and the visitor experience through implementation of the following program elements: 

  • an intuitive entry experience, enabling logical flow of both vehicles and pedestrians;
  • a tour bus parking area with direct access to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center (Visitor Center) and Mather Point;
  • a centralized shuttle bus staging area, convenient to new parking and the Visitor Center, that accommodates all of the park's shuttle bus transit routes; and
  • an auto-free pedestrian experience at Mather Point with enhanced opportunities for viewing along the canyon rim.

The improvements called for in the Transportation Plan were broken into two separate phases of work.Phase I improvements were completed in 2009 by Brown and White, Inc. of Tucson, Arizona and 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.Phase II of the improvements began in March of 2010 and is now substantially complete.

Phase II improvements were constructed by Fann Contracting, Inc. of Prescott, Arizona, and 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.Also occurring this spring will be the placement of a large, stone, mountain lion at the Visitor Center plaza.The lion, like much of the rockwork at the rimside amphitheater and the landmark feature, is being designed and constructed by Chevo Studios of Denver, Colorado.

Within the next few years and also in accordance with the Transportation Plan, the NPS plans to expand interpretive services at the Visitor Center.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 underway.

The NPS will use an adaptive management program to closely monitor and evaluate vehicular traffic, parking use and shuttle bus ridership to determine the timing and required components of any future improvements as outlined in the Transportation Plan.

The Phase I and II improvements were designed by HDR, Inc. and DHM Design, both of Denver, Colorado.The design and construction contracts were administered by the Central Federal Lands Division of the Federal Highway Administration.

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.

For more information on these projects or on implementation of the South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan, please call Project Manager Vicky Stinson at 928-638-7364. 

-NPS- 

Did You Know?

GRAND CANYON TRILOBITE

The Cambrian seas of the Grand Canyon were home to several kinds of trilobite, whose closest living relative is the modern horsehoe crab. They left their fossil record in the mud of the Bright Angel Shale over 500 million years ago.