|Subscribe | What is RSS|
Contact: Shannan Marcak, 928-638-7958
Grand Canyon, Ariz. – The National Park Service (NPS) recently awarded the contract for construction of Phase II of the improvements called for in Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan to Fann Contracting, Inc. of Prescott, Arizona.
In February 2008, the NPS, in cooperation with the US Forest Service (Kaibab National Forest), released the South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan and Environmental Assessment (Transportation Plan). This plan was developed to address the park’s most pressing transportation needs, including significant parking shortages, resource degradation and safety risks at and around Mather Point due to pedestrian/vehicular conflicts, and difficulty accessing the park’s primary visitor center. A Finding of No Significant Impact for the plan’s Preferred Alternative was signed in May 2008.
The Preferred Alternative emphasized collaboration with adjacent communities, businesses, partners and other agencies and focused on enhancing the visitor experience through implementation of the following program elements:
- an intuitive entry experience that enables logical flow of both vehicles and pedestrians (e.g. roadways to parking lots to pedestrian paths that lead visitors to Mather Point, the Grand Canyon Visitor Center (Visitor Center) and shuttle bus staging areas);
- a separate tour bus parking area with direct access to the Visitor Center and Mather Point;
- a centralized shuttle bus staging area that accommodates all of the park’s shuttle bus transit routes and is convenient to new parking and visitor services at the Visitor Center; 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 of the improvements was substantially completed in 2009 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 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 rehabilitation and beautification of impacted areas. Plans call for Phase II improvements to begin sometime in March, weather permitting, and to be completed by fall of 2010. The Phase II contract is being administered by the Central Federal Lands Division of the Federal Highway Administration.
Phase II improvements will include:
- completion of a shuttle bus staging area near the transit pavilion that will accommodate up to four shuttle buses;
- conversion of the shuttle bus stop west of the Visitor Center to picnic pavilions;
- construction of restroom facilities on the north end of the new commercial tour vehicle parking lot;
- removal of all remaining roadway and the parking lot at Mather Point;
- rehabilitation of the Mather Point overlook;
- construction of an informal amphitheater on the rim east of the Mather Point overlook;
- construction of a stone ‘landmark feature’ along the primary walkway between the Visitor Center and the rim which will serve as a meeting place, a way finding icon and an exhibit where visitors can learn about tribal stories that have been incorporated into the landscape;
- construction of three new picnic areas; and
- revegetation of landscape areas where parking and roads have been removed.
Throughout the project, the Visitor Center, Grand Canyon Books and More, restrooms and new parking areas will remain open and easily accessible to visitors.
During construction, it will be necessary to close off access to portions of the canyon rim in the Mather Point area. However, 350 feet of rim in this area will remain open at all times and pedestrian detours will be clearly marked directing visitors from the Visitor Center to Mather Point and guiding Rim Trail hikers through the construction zone.
The park’s free, accessible shuttle buses will serve the Visitor Center complex throughout Phase II construction and will continue to serve the shuttle bus stop on the west end of the complex for the time being.
Within the next few years, the NPS also plans on expanding interpretive services at the Visitor Center. These changes will improve visitor orientation and wayfinding and provide a theater, bike rental facility and limited food items within the Visitor Center complex.
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.
Funding for this project is being made available through the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act.
During construction, up to date information will be available on the park’s web site at www.nps.gov/grca/parkmgmt/cvip09.htm or you may call Shannan Marcak, Public Affairs Specialist, at 928-638-7958. For more information on the Phase II project, please call Vicky Stinson, Project Manager, at 928-774-3026.