Grand Canyon information facility debuts

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GRAND CANYON, Ariz. -- The Canyon View Information Plaza made its debut in Grand Canyon National Park on Oct. 26.

The facility, said by its developers to be the first of its kind, is perhaps best described as a large visitor center designed to be tourists' first stop when they enter the park.

Created by the nonprofit Grand Canyon Association, the plaza represents the first major step in implementing the park's latest general management plan, which focuses on mass transportation and enhancing educational and recreational opportunities.

A view of the recently opened Canyon Viewer Information Plaza.

The facility sets the stage for the development of the Grand Canyon Greenway, a multiuse trail system that by 2004 will extend from the Canyon View Information Plaza to the yet-to-be-built Grand Canyon Transit Center, located north of Tusayan, and to Hermits Rest, in the far west of the developed area.

"This information plaza project is the first of this size and scope," according to a National Parks Service spokeswoman.

"There are similar programs at other national parks, like at Zion [Utah], where there already is visitor transportation, Yellowstone [in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho], where a program is under way, and Acadia [Maine], which is soon to have one.

"But the idea behind the creation of the Canyon View Information Plaza was first to allow visitors to experience more of the [park's] attractions and activities with little inconvenience to them and [without creating] congestion throughout the park," she added.

Other goals were to introduce visitors to the park's major interpretive themes; offer a menu of recreational options from hiking and biking to ranger-guided activities, and connect visitors to various points in the park by way of a mass transit system that will include alternative-fuel buses and a light-rail system.

As designed, visitors can park their cars, board a shuttle bus to the plaza, have an orientation and then have the "option of four modes of taking in sights -- bus, bicycle, guided hike or on foot [independently]," she said.

"This system will make it even more convenient for visitors with overnight reservations in hotels or campsites," she added.

There also is a bookstore at the plaza.

The park entrance fee is $20 per private vehicle. The fee covers access to the park for seven days.

For more information, call (520) 638-7779, or visit the Web site at www.nps.gov/grca/mgmt/.

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