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Officials Celebrating Mather Point Upgrades

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.

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