(KFYI News) – Arizona Public Service Co. is giving $1 million to the Grand Canyon Association – a non-profit organization that works to raise money for Grand Canyon National Park – to help spruce up the park's trail system.

"(We) saw the condition of the trails, the state of disrepair... deferred maintenance... and something had to be done," said Don Brandt, CEO of APS.  "I and many, if not all, of our employees, have had a passion for the Grand Canyon."

So he came up with the idea of a large gift to trigger restoration efforts at the Canyon, which former US Sen. Jon Kyl, who was also at the announcement, called "the crown jewel of our state".

The $1 million gift is one of the biggest private gifts in Grand Canyon history, and the largest-ever corporate donation, according to Grand Canyon Association CEO Susan Schroeder.  APS' Brandt hopes that his company's generosity will inspire more gifts.

The money will be used not only for current trail and trailhead maintenance, but also to establish an endowment that will generate money for perpetual ongoing maintenance.

Also at the announcement, held at the Heard Museum, were US Sen. Jeff Flake and Arizona Congressman Ed Pastor.

David Uberuaga, superintendent of the park, said the Bright Angel trailhead has already been improved with permanent restrooms replacing the portable toilets that had been at the trailhead for over 20 years. 

Most of the rest of the projects, Uberuaga says, will be the trails "in the back country" that make up about 90% of the trails in Grand Canyon National Park – many of which, he says, haven't had any maintenance in decades.  He said eliminating the current backlog of trail maintenance would cost an estimated $20 million.

PHOTO: Former Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl talks to reporters at the announcement of APS' gift to the Grand Canyon.  Looking on are (from left) Grand Canyon National Park superintendent David Uberuaga, APS CEO Don Brandt, and Arizona US Sen. Jeff Flake.