5/24/2012 10:33:00 AM Park partner shares in mission Grand Canyon Association bookstores
GCA’s Books & More at Canyon View Information Plaza is the largest of their seven stores.
For most of the millions who visit the Canyon each year, the goal is to look out on one of the most magnificent sights on earth.
But, for 76 years, the Grand Canyon Association has pursued a mission of guiding visitors from that first look into a journey to learn more about the Canyon's intensely rich natural and human history.
"We want people to stay here a little longer, to learn about the history, to experience some of the wildlife, to understand the geology they're seeing," said GCA Executive Director Brad Wallis. "We want to deepen the experience."
GCA is known as a cooperating association, one of dozens operating on public lands throughout the country. Established by Congress, cooperating associations are unique from gift shop and concessions operations in that they have an official relationship with the parks they serve. These non-profit entities receive no public funding. Their main source of revenue is the sale of educational materials such as books, DVDs, CDs, posters and gift items that foster an appreciation for the park's natural and human history. Everything sold in these stores has gone through an internal review process and been approved by the Park Service.
Grand Canyon Association operates seven bookstores. There are five on the South Rim - Canyon View Information Plaza, Kolb Studio, Yavapai Point Observation Station, Desert View and the Tusayan Museum - and one located in the North Rim Visitor Center. The Association also operates a store at the USDA Forest Service's Jacob Lake Ranger Station on the North Kaibab Ranger District, north of the park.
While the bookstores may be the most visible aspect of the GCA mission, visitors benefit from the Association's efforts right at the gate where they receive a free copy of the park newspaper, The Guide.
Some of the other GCA initiatives:
Kolb Studio: GCA sponsors several free art exhibits by world-class artists yearly in the historic Kolb Studio at the Bright Angel trailhead.
Canyon Country Lecture Series: These free talks by prominent Canyon and Colorado Plateau experts are offered monthly in Flagstaff, Prescott and Glendale.
Publishing: When park naturalist Ed McKee established GCA's forerunner, the Natural History Association, in 1931 its initial goal was to publish and preserve the park's Nature Notes. Today's GCA continues in that tradition, publishing both popular and scholarly titles on Grand Canyon and Colorado Plateau themes.
"Once a year we do a monograph," said Wallis. "It isn't immensely viable as it's not of great public interest, but we do it as a service."
Grand Canyon Field Institute: This is the GCA's direct educational arm, offering unique, on-site educational programs ranging from a few hours on the rim to more than two weeks on the river. Instructors are selected based not only for their knowledge of the Canyon, but also for their love for it and passion to share its wonders. The Institute offers both scheduled courses or customized programs for groups. Several times a year, they also offer service-based projects that combine learning with volunteer work on vital park initiatives.
Travelin' Trunk Program: This is a free resource for teachers throughout the country, offering a variety of Canyon-themed lessons and accompanying learning aids. GCA also provides DVDs and CDs to teachers who request them, free of charge.
The Association has also donated $20 million to the park in the form of grants for the park library, archaeological and natural history study and for rehabilitation of historic structures such as Kolb Studio. As part of their business plan, they consult with park planners to prioritize how donation money will be spent.
"That's something the park has the ability to direct. We do that every year. We exist to serve the park," Wallis said. "When we make profit, we donate it back to the park."
GCA is also a membership organization that keeps visitors in touch with park events and issues throughout the year. Over the past several years, membership has grown from about 3,400 to 7,300.
"Another goal we try to accomplish is to build constituency for the park," Wallis said. "Membership is a great way for people all over the world to stay in contact with Grand Canyon and be aware of what's going on here."
Individual membership with GCA is $35. Benefits include a subscription to the quarterly newsletter Canyon Views, the monthly e-newsletter The Call of the Canyon, a choice of members-only water bottle or tote bag, a 15 percent discount in GCA bookstores, discounts on most Grand Canyon Field Institute courses, invitations to members-only events, 10 percent discount at hundreds of non-profit educational association book stores in national parks and public lands nationwide and free adult admission to Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott with 10 percent discount at the gift shop.
Members can receive even more benefits for pledging higher levels of support.
You can learn more about GCA and any of their many programs by visiting www.grandcanyon.org or by calling the Association at 638-7022 or 638-7036.