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Contact: Shannan Marcak, 928-638-7958
Grand Canyon, Ariz. – On Wednesday, June 15, Grand Canyon National Park will celebrate the completion of two years of improvements to the Mather Point and Grand Canyon Visitor Center area.
The celebration, which will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., will begin with a celebratory gathering with guest speakers at the new Mather Point Amphitheater. Following the gathering, cake will be served near the Visitor Center plaza and an outdoor open house will begin. During the open house, visitors will have the opportunity to explore the improvements which will be highlighted by information stations set up at strategic locations throughout the Mather Point/Visitor Center area.
The improvements, called for in the 2008 South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan, addressed many of the South Rim's most significant traffic congestion and parking issues and improved the experience of park visitors.
"A visitor's first glimpse of the canyon leaves a lasting impression," said Acting Superintendent Barclay Trimble. "Before these improvements were made, we were concerned that traffic congestion, difficulty finding parking and difficulty accessing the Visitor Center and information services were detracting from that impression. We really wanted to make it an experience worthy of the view."
Over the course of the last two years, a number of changes were made to address these concerns. The South Entrance Road was realigned so that it now takes visitors directly to the Visitor Center where newly constructed parking (including designated commercial vehicle parking) is available. A new theater at the visitor center shows a recently released interpretive orientation film, and the visitor center plaza area now includes features that introduce visitors to the canyon's life zones as well as some of its flora and fauna. The walk from the Visitor Center to the rim and Mather Point hints at the river's central role in the canyon, introduces visitors to the tribes that have called this area home for millennia, and no longer requires that visitors cross a busy roadway.
At Mather Point, the parking lot and cars have been removed. A ramp has been added so that the viewpoint is accessible to the mobility impaired; and Mather Point can be reached via either a short walk from the visitor center or by riding the park's free, fully accessible shuttle bus to the new shuttle stop. Picnic tables and increased viewing opportunities encourage visitors to linger and enjoy; and just east of Mather Point, a new rim-side amphitheater provides a location for informal ranger programs with the Grand Canyon as the backdrop.
"We really wanted to create a more intuitive experience for the visitor," said Vicky Stinson, Project Manager in charge of most of the improvements. "I like to think that these changes have not only increased visitor access to information and crucial needs like parking, but may even have served to enhance that jaw-dropping moment when they catch their first glimpse of one of the most spectacular places on Earth."
Additional improvements to increase access to visitor information and alternative transportation continue in the Mather Point/Visitor Center area. A new shuttle transit center was recently completed at the visitor center; and shuttle service has been expanded to include a seasonal route between the Visitor Center and the gateway community of Tusayan, Arizona. The completion of Greenway V makes it easy for visitors to walk from Mather Point to the South Kaibab Trailhead; and Greenway III, stretching from the Visitor Center to Tusayan, will soon be completed. Construction on a permanent bike rental facility adjacent to the Visitor Center plaza will soon begin; and new interpretive exhibits are being installed in the Visitor Center this summer.
Grand Canyon's June 15 celebration is open to the public (with paid admission to the park) and the National Park Service invites everyone to come and explore the many improvements to the Mather Point and Grand Canyon Visitor Center area.
For more information on the Mather Point/Grand Canyon Visitor Center celebration, please call Public Affairs Specialist Shannan Marcak at 928-638-7958. For more on the Mather Point/Visitor Center area improvements, please call Project Manager Vicky Stinson at 928-638-7364 or go to http://www.nps.gov/grca/parknews/2011-01-06_phaseii.htm.