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National Park Updates

I am going to attempt to keep folks posted via my internet site as to the major changes taking place at the Grand Canyon National Park.   Last updated March 2013                                   

The following is an Email recieved from the US Park Service.  Government cuts are coming to the Grand Canyon National Park with big reductions and less service provided to you by the Government!  All the more reason to go with me on tour of the Grand Canyon!!!

March 1, 2013

 Dear Commercial Use Authorization Holders:

 We know there are a lot of questions from visitors and businesses as sequestration begin to take effect, and government agencies begin to make required across-the-board cuts.  We have had to make difficult decisions in preparing for these cuts. We have done our best to mitigate impacts to the visiting public, business owners and operators, stakeholders and others. A five percent reduction for Grand Canyon National Park means a cut of $1,060,139 – so there will be a direct impact to all.

We want to be clear that Grand Canyon National Park remains open, and we will continue to do our best to provide a quality visitor experience to all who visit the park. Because it is not yet known how long a sequester would be in effect, it’s premature to speculate on specific impacts. Once we know the duration of the sequester, we will be in a better position to identify specific impacts.

 What we know now is that visitors will see a reduction in services – summer hours at the park’s main visitor center will be reduced by two hours and summer interpretive programs will be reduced, visitors will see longer lines at the entrance stations and permits for backcountry use could take longer to process. With a reduction in seasonal maintenance staff, park restrooms and campgrounds will not be as clean, reopening some park roads (Hermit Road and Desert View Drive) will be delayed after snow events, trails that close because of damage from rock slides or weather events will take longer to repair, and scheduled or emergency repairs to facilities, roads, overlooks, etc., will be delayed.

 As of now, there is no reason why your clients should cancel or change their Grand Canyon travel plans.  We appreciate your patience as we continue to face this challenge. 


Grand Canyon National Park accomplishments outlined in new report for
fiscal years 2009 and 2010

Grand Canyon, Ariz. – Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Steve
Martin, today announced the availability of an accomplishment report for
Grand Canyon National Park for fiscal years 2009 and 2010. The report
highlights many of the challenges that were addressed by park staff over
the last several years, as well as a summary of key accomplishments.

“The genesis of these accomplishments starts in 2007 with a series of goals
set for the park by the National Park Service Intermountain Region and
Washington Offices and the Grand Canyon management team,” stated
Superintendent Martin.

At the start of 2007, the park was faced with several major management
challenges, including the need for an effective transportation plan to
improve visitor experience and safety, as well as to improve access to the
park’s main visitor center; adequate employee housing to improve employee
recruitment and retention; high leasehold surrender interest in many of the
park facilities operated by a park concessioner; the need for environmental
improvements to key park infrastructure that could serve as examples for
sustainability; as well as many other important planning projects such as
the substantial restoration of natural quiet to the park, participation in
the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program for the restoration of high
flow protocols  and completion of a fire management plan.

 “As we near the end of 2010, and reflect back over the last several years,
most if not all of these challenges have been addressed leading to
significant improvements in the protection of park resources, visitor
experience, employee living and working conditions, and the safety of those
who visit and live in Grand Canyon,” stated Superintendent Martin. “Over
the last 35 years I have been involved in the management of parks from many
different perspectives.  The accomplishments by the staff at Grand Canyon,
however, surpass anything I have seen from the many incredible management
teams I have worked with.”

Accomplishments outlined in the report include:

 Significant improvements at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, Mather
 Point and South Rim Entrance Station.
A new visitor center at Verkamp’s.
New Trail of Time exhibit.
Additional protections and improvements to park resources.
Rehabilitation of Inner Canyon Corridor trails.
Reconstruction of Hermit Road and a new accessible Hermits Road Trail.

Pavement preservation project for all park roads.
Rehabilitation of remote and historic Inner Canyon ranger stations.
New and improved employee housing.
New housing at Supai Camp.
Approval for a new Science and Resource Management building.
Upgrades to several antiquated park buildings.
Rehabilitation to the Desert View Watchtower.
New office space for Grand Canyon employees in Flagstaff.
State of the art photovoltaic panels at the Grand Canyon Visitor
 Center and other “greening” improvements.
New educational programs to inspire the next generation of
 environmental stewards.
A developmental leadership program for Grand Canyon and other
Intermountain Region employees.
A new dispatch center and other improvements for visitor safety.
New restrooms throughout the park.
Development of a new fundraising program and partner.
“I leave my tenure at Grand Canyon knowing we have accomplished a great
deal of work.  We have made significant improvements in the protection of
park resources, to employee work and living conditions, to the Grand Canyon
community, to the gateway community of Tusayan and to the visitor’s
experience,” said Superintendent Martin.  “This report reflects the
successes of our park staff, with support from the National Park Service
Intermountain Region and Washington Office, and many park partners
including the Grand Canyon Association, Grand Canyon Trust, affiliated
tribes, the National Parks and Conservation Association, and neighboring
communities and government agencies.”


Proposal shifts mule rides to Rim

The famous Grand Canyon mules could take another path.

A Grand Canyon Park Service management proposal released Tuesday dramatically cuts back the Phantom Ranch rides along the popular Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails and shifts the majority of rides to above the South Rim, rather than into the Canyon.

Overall, the number of rides, though capped, would allow commercial mule tours to operate at approximately the same levels as mule trains are more spread out and less concentrated, especially on the Canyon highway that is Bright Angel.

The Park Service's environmental assessment considered five options, including a "no-action alternative," which would have continued current mule operations stock use within the national park. The public has until April 30 to comment on the proposal. A final decision could be published as soon as June.

Under the "preferred alternative," up to 10,000 rides could take place annually along the South Rim and 8,000 from the North Rim. The previous plan had a daily restriction only, with no annual limit. However, the annual average has been 8,315 rides from the South Rim and 7,072 along the North.


For Xanterra, the concessionaire that runs the mule rides on the South Rim, adjustments have already essentially taken place.

Under previous rules, the outfitter could run up to 20 rides to Phantom Ranch and 20 rides to Plateau Point daily on the Bright Angel, and up to 20 rides from Phantom Ranch daily along the South Kaibab (plus supply mules).

The proposed change halves the Phantom Ranch rides to 10 daily per trail, and completely cuts out the rides to Plateau Point. In exchange, it adds in up to 40 rides per day from the Yaki Point area east where there had previously been no ride.

Xanterra has already been following these guidelines, and although the company gave up popular rides in one area, made up for it in another, said Bruce Brossman, director of reservation sales for Xanterra's Grand Canyon Railway and a frequent liaison with the concessionaire's South Rim operations.

"One nice thing about the Rim rides is that people who are 225 pounds can actually do that ride," he said. "The Plateau Point ride was a pretty difficult, strenuous ride and often too long for people -- and also, at (a) 200-pound (rider) limit it's not hard to preclude somebody from taking that ride."

Brossman said Xanterra stays neutral on topics like this and adapts to changes as their Park Service superiors require. But despite dropping the Plateau Point rides, which often sold out, and scaling back Phantom Ranch rides, he said the company's business shouldn't be dented as the Rim rides can give visitors more opportunities to see the Canyon.

The concessionaire expects to keep its small crew of trail maintenance workers, Brossman said.

Jim McCarthy, a hiker and active Sierra Club member, said he was not familiar with all the details of the proposed plan, but said he was concerned that the trail maintenance would not be sustainable -- either financially or environmentally, given the potential amount of Canyon dirt that would need to be harvested to build up the trails.

McCarthy said the Sierra Club was hopeful that mules would be removed from either the Bright Angel or South Kaibab altogether, although he said he understood that wouldn't be likely.

The bigger-picture concern, he said, was national lands being taken over by commercial interests -- also a reference to Sen. John McCain's Canyon overflights amendment, also revealed Tuesday (see accompanying story).


Rachel Bennett, an environmental protection specialist for Grand Canyon National Park, said the Park Service wanted mule rides to continue but also lessen impacts. And their proposal would have the least financial impact on concessionaires -- especially for the smaller and more specialized Canyon Trail Rides, which offers easier and shorter trips on the more remote North Rim.

At the North Rim, there would be caps on rides to Supai Tunnel, on Ken Patrick and to Uncle Jim Point. Rides to Roaring Springs would be completely eliminated.

According to a press release issued Tuesday, the Park Service wants to address the following objectives with the management plan:

-- Provide opportunities for mule and stock use within Grand Canyon National Park to as large a cross section of visitors as practicable.

-- Establish appropriate levels and types of stock use, such as number of stock per day and group size, on park trails that will allow for improved maintenance and reduced resource impacts and costs associated with trail maintenance.

-- Through improved maintenance and operations, reduce conflicts between stock users and hikers on park trails.

-- Identify optimal stock facility locations, including infrastructure size and locations for improving health, safety and overall visitor experience.

Bennett said the park doesn't have a lot of data, but would track success of the next mule program. If the park still can't maintain trails, it could begin planning alternatives again.

"Our goal is to implement something and then monitor that and see if it addresses those concerns, specifically with the trail conditions and the amount of money they we need to spend to maintain them," she said.


Conflicts between mule riders and hikers and wear and tear on the trails -- the latter especially, Bennett said -- prompted the Park Service to consider alternative mule and stock use plans for the Canyon.

On one hand, the mules are historical icons that help the less able-bodied see more of one of the world's natural wonders. On the other, hikers complain about the animals and their waste and other conflicts.

Park officials have said that each year, they receive numerous complaints regarding trail conditions and mule waste on the trails. Both stock users and hikers have expressed concerns regarding the safety of stock users, the lack of knowledge regarding trail etiquette from hikers and discourtesy from some stock users.

Additionally, the trails used by mules are in poor shape, with ruts up to three feet deep and secondary trails branching off where the ground has been too damaged to allow safe passage.

The agency has about $1.5 million annually for all trail work in the Grand Canyon. Park officials say they need twice that amount, and that the fees paid by mule riders to use the trails do not keep up with repairs.

On the main corridor, the Bright Angel Trail continues to deteriorate in part because of a backlog of trail maintenance across the park.

Bennett said she is hoping to hear some productive comments about the preferred management plan and that the park service is open to amending its proposal. That could mean changing course or doing a hybrid of plans.

"We need to maintain our trails for both hikers and stock users and we need to be able to maintain them with the amount of money that we have available to us to do that," she said.




Date:       December 14, 2009

Rangers Respond to Request for Assistance for Grand Canyon Railway

Grand Canyon, Ariz. – At approximately 11:40 a.m. on Monday, December 14,
the National Park Service (NPS) responded to a request for assistance from
the Grand Canyon Railway (Railway) at the rail junction with Rowe Well Road
three miles inside the park boundary.  Upon arriving at the scene, ranger’s
found the train stopped approximately 70 feet beyond the rail junction with
one of the locomotive’s four axles no longer on the track.  The train’s 70
passengers, four engine crew and three passenger service attendants were
unhurt, but eager to finish their trip to the South Rim.

Xanterra South Rim, L.L.C, a concessioner in the park, brought in buses to
transport the passengers the rest of the way to Grand Canyon Village while
Railway and NPS crews worked to clear snow and ice in order to get the
train’s axle back on the track.

The locomotive involved in the incident returned to Williams early this
afternoon so that a full inspection could be conducted.  A replacement
locomotive was brought in to complete the train’s scheduled round trip.
Additionally, the train delayed its departure from the Grand Canyon by an
hour in order to give passengers the full benefit of their visit to the

Preliminary investigations indicate that the incident was caused by a
buildup of ice on the tracks.  Although Federal Railroad Administration
requires that tracks such as those in the park be inspected two times per
week, Grand Canyon Railway makes every effort to inspect their tracks
daily.  Railway staff confirmed that the Rowe Well section of track was
last inspected yesterday.

The NPS is continuing its investigation into the incident.





Planning to end your summer with a visit to the Grand Canyon this Sunday?
You may wind up staring at roadblocks and Secret Service agents rather than a splendid abyss and towering cliffs.
David Eaker, a National Parks spokesman, said tourists should expect "some closures and some delays" as President Barack Obama and his family tour one of the world's seven natural wonders.
Air Force One is scheduled to arrive in Tusayan at 10 a.m. Sunday, and the Obama family will spend about seven hours touring the Canyon before flying back to Phoenix. For security reasons, Eaker said, authorities will not announce details of the first family's itinerary, so it is impossible to know in advance which South Rim roads and attractions may be closed at any given time.
Crowds are typical at the Canyon in mid-August, and the numbers are expected to swell this weekend because the Park Service has waived admission fees that normally cost $25 per vehicle or $12 for pedestrians.
"It is a busy time," said park spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge, noting that campgrounds and area hotels are typically full. "People are taking the last bit of vacation before kids head off to school."
Asked about the Obamas' visit on a fee-free weekend, Eaker said it is sheer coincidence, then chuckled at a suggestion that the president's family might be scrimping on its budget.
The Grand Canyon attracts nearly 5 million visitors annually from around the world, most of them drawn to the accessible South Rim where the Obama family will tour.
Eaker said a National Parks team has helped plan the presidential excursion, trying to minimize the impact on visitors. At the same time, he added, the White House and Park Service are working to create a private atmosphere for the Obamas and their two children. A White House news release stresses that the Canyon visit "will be closed to the press," and Grand Canyon Airport
will be closed to the public during presidential arrivals and departures.
"For the first family, in reality, this is as much as it can be a vacation," Eaker said.
Grand Canyon National Park covers more than 1,900 square miles around a 270-mile stretch of the Colorado River, which flows a mile beneath the rim. The area first received federal protection in 1893 and was named a national park in 1919.
Other presidents who visited the Canyon while in office include William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton


Grand Canyon unlikely to disappoint Obamas

Our view: As hosts, we can only hope to help them connect with its natural grandeur and appreciate the importance of preserving it for future generations.

It's always a source of local pride to have a sitting president visit Grand Canyon National Park. Yes, we know that the Canyon, as a true natural wonder, belongs to the entire country and, indeed, the world.

But every region gets to claim a national park or two as their own, and the Canyon is definitely ours. Most of us visit the national park several times a year, and some of us more often than that. We get to explore it a little more in-depth -- literally -- than the average tourist, leading to a deeper appreciation of its natural grandeur.

The Canyon is also a can't-miss hit with visiting relatives and friends, especially first-timers like the Obama children. Even just an afternoon on the South Rim is usually the highlight of any summer vacation photo album.

But the Grand Canyon, as a national park, also plays a major role in the local economy, determining everything from the number of hotel rooms in Flagstaff to the number of gas stations in Williams and Valle. Tusayan, at the South Rim entrance station, is entirely a creature of the national park, and when visitation dips as gas prices soar or the weather turns sour for an extended period, Tusayan takes the biggest hit, proportionally.

Management of the Canyon thus becomes a local as well as regional and national issue -- when the rules governing helicopter tours, rafting trips, camping permits and mule rides are radically altered or entry fees and traffic patterns are changed, the ripple effects are felt throughout northern Arizona. How the Canyon is buffered from the larger world of industry and commerce -- whether uranium mining or cell phone towers -- also is of great interest to those locals who see the Colorado Plateau's economic and environmental health as integrally related to that of the Canyon and the national park.

Thus, a presidential visit looms large, considering his ability to influence so many of those issues above. A president who is personally familiar with the Grand Canyon is likely to take a closer look when a background memo on hardrock mining law reform or national park staffing or natural quiet in wilderness comes across his desk. He might also remember the wonder on his children's faces as they first peered over the rim and think hard about allowing nearby coal plants to buy pollution credits and thus skirt smog control laws.

It goes without saying that as hosts to the president and his family, we will all be putting our best foot forward. That's not always the case -- rescuing dehydrated tourists in flip-flops halfway down the Bright Angel Trail for the umpteenth time each summer can make a ranger a little cynical about the intelligence of the human species.

But Sunday is a chance for the Canyon to strut its stuff and the hosts to not get in the way -- the Canyon usually does just fine by its guests without much human interference. Sunday will be a success if the Obamas can connect with the natural grandeur at their feet and appreciate how important it is to preserve such a unique setting for future generations -- both those who come from far away and those who live right next door.

Man Who Drove Car Over Rim Identified

The body of a man who drove his car over the edge of the Grand Canyon last week has been identified as that of Gheorghe Chiriac of Apple Valley, California. Park dispatch received numerous reports that a car had been driven over the edge near the El Tovar Hotel on the South Rim around 6 a.m. on Monday, July 13th. Upon arriving at the scene, rangers found tire tracks indicating that a car had been driven up onto the curb of the loading area between the El Tovar Hotel and the Kachina Lodge. The car then veered left, traveling through the grass behind Kachina Lodge until it reached the Thunderbird Lodge, where it veered right and into the canyon. As the car had traveled a significant distance from the regular roadway, there was no wall or barrier where it went over the edge. Rescue personnel descended on ropes and located the vehicle approximately 600 feet below the rim. The man’s body was found shortly thereafter. After the scene was documented, the body was transported to the rim by helicopter via long-line operation and then picked up by the Coconino County medical examiner. The body has now been identified as that of 57-year-old Gheorghe Chiriac, who emigrated from Romania approximately 30 years ago.  His death has been ruled a suicide
Salazar Calls Two-Year ‘Time-Out’ from New Mining Claims on Arizona Strip
                 Watershed near Grand Canyon National Park

Department will evaluate more extended withdrawal of lands from new mining

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After carefully considering the issue of uranium mining
near Grand Canyon National Park, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has
decided to segregate nearly 1 million acres of federal lands in the Arizona
Strip for two years while the Department evaluates whether to withdraw
these lands from new mining claims for an additional 20 years.

“I am calling a two-year ‘Time-Out’ from all new mining claims in the
Arizona Strip near the Grand Canyon because we have a responsibility to
ensure we are developing our nation’s resources in a way that protects
local communities, treasured landscapes, and our watersheds,” said
Secretary Salazar.  “Over the next two years, we will gather the best
science and input from the public, members of Congress, tribes, and
stakeholders, and we will thoughtfully evaluate whether these lands should
be withdrawn from new mining claims for a longer period of time.”

The segregated lands include 633,547 acres managed by Interior’s Bureau of
Land Management and 360,002 acres managed by the U.S. Forest Service.  The
Department of the Interior is the federal agency charged with segregating
U.S. public lands for possible withdrawal.  The lands are within portions
of the Grand Canyon watershed next to Grand Canyon National Park in
northern Arizona and contain significant environmental and cultural
resources as well as substantial uranium deposits.

An iconic American landscape and World Heritage Site, Grand Canyon National
Park encompasses 1.2 million acres on the Colorado Plateau.  The park,
which draws 4.4 million visitors each year, is home to numerous rare,
endemic and specially protected plant and animal species and contains vast
archeological resources and sites of spiritual and cultural importance to
American Indians.  The Colorado River and its tributaries that flow through
the watersheds of Grand Canyon National Park supply water to agricultural,
industrial, and municipal users, including the cities of Tucson, Phoenix,
Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

Under the Secretary's conventional withdrawal procedures, the two-year
segregation has essentially the same effect as a withdrawal -- it would
prohibit new mining claims in the designated areas.  Neither the
segregation nor any withdrawal, however, would prohibit ongoing or future
mining exploration or extraction operations on valid pre-existing claims.
Those activities might proceed during segregation and any withdrawal. About
10,600 mining claims are located in the proposed withdrawal area and
several current uranium mining operations await State of Arizona
environmental permits.  Neither the segregation nor the proposed withdrawal
would prohibit any other authorized uses on these lands.

A notice published in today’s Federal Register initiates a 90-day public
comment period on the proposed withdrawal and segregation.  Under the
Federal Land Policy and Management Act, lands proposed for withdrawal are
immediately segregated for up to two years during which a decision on the
proposed withdrawal may be made.

During the two-year segregation, studies and analyses will be conducted to
determine if the lands should be withdrawn to protect the area from new
mining claims.  In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act,
this process includes participation by the public, tribes, environmental
groups, industry, state and local government, as well as other

These efforts will be undertaken under the leadership of the Bureau of Land
Management in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Geological
Survey, and the National Park Service and will be used in support of a
final decision on the withdrawal.

By law, the Department can withdraw these lands for a maximum of 20 years.
Only Congress can initiate a permanent withdrawal.

Few neutral on Canyon mules

Wranglers like Tawn Mangum take more than 100 people on daily mule rides into and along the Grand Canyon in the summer.

International tourists and people with disabilities are some of the customers for his mule tours on the North Rim, and more on the South Rim. Mangum's daylong trips were recently cut to 4 miles round-trip when a rock-fall covered part of the North Kaibab Trail. (View a slide show here )

Now the National Park Service is taking a long look at all mule and packing stock use in the Grand Canyon, and weighing the benefits of mules against the costs of trail maintenance and conflicts with some hikers.

On one hand, the mules are a historical icon that help the less able-bodied see more of one of the natural wonders of the world.

On the other, hikers sometimes complain about them and their waste.

The trails used by mules are in poor shape, with trail crews unable to afford enough staff to keep up repairs, said Barclay Trimble, a deputy superintendent at the park.

Of the main corridor, the Bright Angel Trail, he says, "it continues to deteriorate," and cites a backlog of trail maintenance across the park.

Cutting back mule use in the canyon is one option the Park Service is considering, Trimble said.

The agency has about $1.5 million annually for all trail work in the Grand Canyon.

Trails supervisor Bill Allen says he needs twice that much.

The Park Service says the fees paid by mule riders to use the trails do not keep up with repairs.

Those who take tourists on Grand Canyon rides and haul supplies into the canyon -- mule wranglers and packers -- showed up for a Tuesday night meeting at the Flagstaff library about an hour from the Grand Canyon to say the livestock used as far back as the copper mining era should stay in the Grand Canyon.

Altogether, more than 50 people attended.

"The mules built the trails," Mangum said. "We're kind enough to let the hikers use them. And now they want to kick us off the trails."

Park Service staffers say many of the trails used and expanded by mules were ancient Native American trade and travel routes.

Casey Murph formerly managed mule trips on the South Rim for park concessionaire Xanterra, before moving into ranching.

He said he wishes there were more signs to educate hikers about mules, "so that folks who hike the trail know that they will encounter mules there."

His teams took about 40 riders per day along the South Rim.

"It's a huge historical icon for the country," Murph said.

Xanterra has a small crew that attempts to clean up mule waste on the trail.

Lately, they've been spending more time rebuilding trails than shoveling droppings.


Harry Hadley conducted tours via mule in the Grand Canyon for 11 years.

"I loved it," he said. "I loved the people. And it gives people a chance -- who can't walk down -- a chance to see the canyon."

He proposes closing the major foot freeway to Phantom Ranch, the Bright Angel Trail, to mules and opening another shorter steeper route, the South Kaibab Trail, to mules only.

And on that, he could get some agreement from some hikers and the Sierra Club.

Hiking guide and author Wayne Ranney says the Park Service should add some day trips along the South Rim, which would be new, and reroute mules from the Bright Angel to the South Kaibab Trail.

Some of the wranglers agree with the idea of shorter day trips, and the Park Service is considering a trip to a point called Hermit's Rest, west of Grand Canyon Village.

Previously, there were other day trips on the South Rim, including to another scenic area called Shoshone Point, say the wranglers.

A day in the saddle down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon "is much too much of an endeavor for most car-traveling Americans," Ranney said.

While he says he "loves seeing mules down there" and could not care less about the droppings or urine they leave in the trail, Ranney has seen ruts more than 3 feet deep along the Bright Angel.

The Park Service should consider removing mules from the canyon entirely, said Jim McCarthy, a hiker, Sierra Club member and Flagstaff city planning and zoning commissioner.

He says it's worth considering what the Canyon's carrying capacity for the animals is, because trail construction sometimes means quarrying materials from the canyon.

"I think the real problem isn't the mules," he said. "It's the damage they cause to trails and what the trail crews do in trying to rebuild the trails."

The Park Service is planning to release documents regarding possible options for mules this summer, with a final decision due in December.

Typically, three major Grand Canyon trails are open to commercial mule tours.

Right now, the South Kaibab Trail is closed to mules for extensive repairs.

Cyndy Cole can be reached at 913-8607 or at

Want to give your thoughts?

Contact the Park Service by going the documents for mule operations and a comment form at

Or write to Grand Canyon National Park, Attn: Mule Operations and Stock Use EA, P.O. Box 129 (1 Village Loop for express mail), Grand Canyon, AZ 86023.

By the numbers

100+: Mules entering Grand Canyon daily in peak summer season

$100,000 to $400,000: Costs per mile to repair a trail frequently used by mules

$1.5 million: National Park Service annual trail budget for all Grand Canyon trails

$20 million: Estimated cost of catching up on all trail work at the Grand Canyon

150: Number of mules that live and work at the South Rim

14: Number of wranglers managing them

20: Riders headed to Plateau Point daily, plus 2-3 wranglers

20: Riders headed to Phantom Ranch daily, plus 2-3 wranglers

Fun facts about mules at the Grand Canyon

A cross between a horse and a donkey, mules are typically sterile, and unable to reproduce.

The South Rim's mules come from a ranch in Tennessee, and are gradually trained to go a little farther into the canyon over time, says hiker and mule rider Jon Streit, the director of operations for Xanterra South Rim.

Each of his company's 150 mules at Grand Canyon Village has a name, and is identifiable to the wranglers who work with them.

In months of snow and ice, the mules receive cleat-like pieces of metal welded to their shoes, to aid with traction. During heavy snowfall, their keepers also shovel snow and ice off impassible sections of the trails.

Mules are used to carry boaters, hikers, gear, and trash out of Phantom Ranch, a lodging and meals facility at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Mule operations run every day of the year at the Grand Canyon.

Young, fit mules typically work five days out of every week.

When mules are ready to retire, Xanterra looks to a list of people who have asked to buy a mule formerly from the Grand Canyon, and sells to them. There's always a demand.

To beat summer temperatures often exceeding 100 degrees at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, mules headed to the South Rim are often packed at 3 a.m. in the summer months.

Riding is not as easy as it sometimes looks, Streit said, because it requires abdominal and leg strength to command the mule and stick into the saddle.

"A lot of people have the perception that it's the easy way to get down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon," he said. "It's a demanding ride. It requires physical stamina."

Riding mules in the Grand Canyon

Two companies offer mule tours into the Grand Canyon.

Xanterra South Rim offers two rides on the more populated side of the Grand Canyon, and both cover some distance.

Canyon Trail Rides offers easier and shorter trips on the more remote North Rim, which is located more than four hours by car from Flagstaff, Ariz.

Xanterra's day-long trip enters the Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail and descends 6.1 miles to Plateau Point, at an elevation loss of 3,120 feet, to peer into the inner Grand Canyon and at the Colorado River. Riders return the same day. The company calls this a 7-hour ride.

Xanterra's overnight trip goes to Phantom Ranch, a main population center and visitor destination deep in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The overnight ride includes more than 4,000 feet of elevation change and 10.5 miles each way, and riders sleep in cabins and are served meals.

Xanterra's rides typically book 13 months in advance.

On the North Rim, Canyon Trail Rides offers an hour-long ride for riders ages 7 and older along the canyon rim, and another half-day ride.

Canyon Trail Rides also offers a half-day ride that descends 2 miles and 1,450 feet into the Grand Canyon along its northern rim.

Canyon Trail Rides typically has daily rides available.

Mule trips range in cost from $30 for a one-hour ride along the North Rim to $668 for a rider staying two nights at Phantom Ranch, not including tips.

Riders entering the Grand Canyon are limited to 200 pounds, dressed.

If staying along the rim, the weight limit is 220 pounds.

Experienced horse and mule owners can also bring their own horses or mules for use on major trails in the Grand Canyon, and along the rim, but must apply for competitive permits just like backpackers. These permits typically run out in the spring, summer and fall, so most people apply four months in advance, on the first day of the month, by fax and by mail.

Canyon Trail Rides is at (435) 679-8665.

Xanterra South Rim is at (888) 297-2757.

The issue, in brief

Because the mules helped to carve old mining and exploration trails now used by hikers, some say the Canyon should be open to the animals.

The Park Service largely agrees, but is now considering to what extent.


--Deep pools of urine and piles of manure on trails

--Deep ruts in the trail that outpace Park Service funds available to repair them

--Hikers sometimes pushed aside or against embankments by mules

Possible solutions

--More, shorter trips for tourists atop the South Rim

--Fewer 7-hour round trips to Plateau Point

--Designate one major trail for hikers, the other for mules



Updated 8/23/09

Several of we tour guides in the area have been invited by the National Park Service to be part of a Transition Team starting in Sept. of 99. Change is coming to your National Park's soon.  A light rail system is to be established and eventually forces me and others to other means of showing you this beautiful sacred place. The National Park Service intends to develop and operate the light rail and bus components of the transit system through a concession contract. This system will be funded through a portion of visitor entrance fees earmarked for transit. The transit system will be implemented in phases.


Expansion of the existing shuttle bus system is underway and will continue through the next several years. Completion of Canyon View Information Plaza, an integral part of the overall transit system, is scheduled to be completed in September 2000. The system's light rail component is expected to be in place in 2002. Interim transportation to the plaza will be provided.

The age of congested automobile traffic and limited options for visitors will soon be a memory of the past at Grand Canyon National Park. And so will a private tour provided by Marvelous Marv! Seams the local politicians are more concerned in making a name for themselves via the auspices of the United Nations than being concerned for America's Public Lands and National Parks.

In its many pinched attack against national sovereignty, the U.N. has designated certain tracts of land around the world as World Heritage Sites. So far there are twenty of these sites in the United States.

In 1972 the U.S. State Department signed the World Heritage Convention, which was declared law in 1975 by President Gerald Ford. The treaty established "an effective system of collective protection for cultural and natural sites of outstanding universal significance." All of the 146 nations that signed on to the treaty agreed that it is the duty of the international community to protect World Heritage Sites. The World Heritage Committee was formed to implement the treaty under the direction of UNSEEN, the United Nations Environmental, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Environmental groups and the Clinton administration have used the 24 year old treaty to bypass Congressional resistance to environmental legislation. In 1978 Yellowstone National Park was designated as the nation's first World Heritage Site. Since then the U.N. has made its influence known inside and outside the park. It started in 1995, when fourteen private conservation groups in the U.S. used the treaty to petition the World Heritage Committee to list Yellowstone as a World Heritage Site in Danger. They based their concerns on possible threats to the park's ecology and the inadequacy of U.S. laws to protect it. "The listing as a site 'in danger,' allows the World Heritage Committee to work in cooperation with the U.S. to develop corrective measures a take the park out of 'danger'." Coeur d'Alene Press August 11,1996. Under the terms of the treaty, a "World Heritage Site in Danger" requires a buffer zone be established around the perimeter of the site. One of the "corrective measures" recommended by the World Heritage delegation that visited Yellowstone was a 12 million acre buffer zone around the park. This sparked a widespread outcry, especially from land owners that would be displaced. The delegation publicly backed away from the buffer zone proposal. However, the U.N. officially listed Yellowstone as a World Heritage Site in Danger in December,1995 at a meeting in Berlin, Germany. What is still uncertain is what will happen with the buffer zone that is required by the treaty. What is clear is the determined campaign to place U.S. resources such as the national parks under international control. In the August 11 article in the Coeur d' Alene Press, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, who is chairman of the House Committee on Resources, was quoted as saying, "This is part of a plot for centralization, and, in fact, global type control.... There are people who say as population increases, the only way to keep anarchy from occurring is through centralized control by government. In this case, world government." Over 60 percent of Alaska's land has been locked up either by National Park or World Heritage Site designation. During the past couple of years major newspapers have run feature articles describing the deterioration of our national parks. Mounting visitor counts and a crumbling park infrastructure have combined to create a crisis situation. Budget cutbacks have exacerbated the problem. The U.S. does not seem to be in a position to refuse outside help. Bob Ekey, spokesman for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, was quoted by the Coeur d'Alene Press as saying, "We thought it was important to ask this body to come in and use its expertise to do an audit of this park," as though the National Park Service lacks expertise. The U.N. is not lacking in invitations from U.S. groups seeking special U.N. designation. Along with environmental groups there are National Park Service employees lobbying the U.N. for its blessing, hoping international recognition will prompt Congress to increase funding for recognized parks. John Foster Dulles, a leading proponent of world government, said in a speech before the American Bar Association in 1952, "Treaties make international law and they also make domestic law. Under our Constitution, treaties become the supreme law of the land. They are, indeed, more supreme than ordinary laws for the congressional laws are invalid if they do not conform to the Constitution, whereas treaty law can override the Constitution.Treaties, for example, can take powers away from the Congress and give them to the President; they can take powers away from the States and give them to the Federal Government or to some international body, and they can cut across the rights given the people by their constitutional Bill of Rights." The internationalists are using the World Heritage Convention, as well as other treaties, to circumvent the U.S. Congress and the Constitution. It is the U.N.'s goal to assume a stewardship role over America's resources. The aforementioned treaty was a significant step in that direction and there are other treaties waiting for ratification that will give teeth to the World Heritage Convention. CFR member and Trilateralist Richard Gardner was appointed by President Carter as Ambassador to Italy after he wrote his infamous article, "The Hard Road to World Order" in the CFR's FOREIGN AFFAIRS. In that article he stated, "The 'house of world order' will have to be built from the bottom up rather than from the top down..., but an end run around national sovereignty, eroding it piece by piece, will accomplish much more than the old-fashioned frontal assault." Piecemeal erosion of national sovereignty is the modus operandi of the internationalists with full control over the world, and its wealth its final goal. They have been content to take this one step at a time and the final pieces are now dropping into place.

With annual visitation approaching the 6 million mark at Grand Canyon National Park, it was the consensus to take action to enhance the experience for those who journey to one of the world's most wondrous natal spectacles. The first big step in this process occurred in April of 99 with ground-breaking ceremony of Canyon View Information Plaza. "I never dreamed we'd be where we are today," said Bruce Babbitt, U.S. secretary of the Interior. "At the turn of the century, it's all coming together." Mr. Babbitt is a local born native son of the Babbitt Empire of Northern Arizona. Canyon View Information Plaza will be the first stop for visitors of the future.

Photo 1

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Located 500 to 800 feet from the rim of the Grand Canyon at Mather Point, the plaza will serve as an orientation and transportation hub. Welcome to Disneyland/Las Vegas of the Grand Canyon folks! "We're here to both mark the progress we've made and to take the next step. The visitor of the future will have a new and better way to visit Grand Canyon National Park," said Robert Arnberger, park superintendent. "This will be the first national park to make such a comprehensive change in how visitors come to a national park." Superintendent Arnberger is also native born at Grand Canyon and third generation of Park Superintendent retiring in three years. His word and signature is Law at Grand Canyon National Park. I must admit I do admire the man and all his has to deal with with this situation taking precedent here at Grand Canyon National Park. It saddens me to the chore of my being to see what we are doing to this number one Natural Wonder of the World. The plaza is the first major project at the park using the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program. Authorized by Congress in 1996, the program allowed for fees generated at Grand Canyon to be used for projects to enhance visitor experience. Entrance fees went up at the park Jan. 15, 1997 nearly forcing me and others out of business........

In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt created and dedicated the Grand Canyon National Monument. This precursor to the National Park Service was the apple of Roosevelt's eye. The beauty of the Grand Canyon moved him to pen this quote; "Do nothing to mar it's grandeur, for the ages have been at work upon it and man cannot improve it. Keep it for your children, your children's children and all who come after you." Well my friends, if our children's children are to have the opportunity to witness the beauty and grandeur of the Grand Canyon as Theodore Roosevelt implored, they had better have very big wallets!! If things keep going the way they are going, in five years, who knows, it may cost $100 per person to enter the gates of the Grand Canyon National Park.

Yes it is true, as Roosevelt stated, "The ages have been at work on it." Well, now some government committee has DONE A NUMBER on it!! This effects all of us from the small family on a once in a lifetime vacation to the big corporate tour bus company and everyone in between. Those paying the highest price are the small independently owned tour companies in the Grand Canyon area. These outfits struggle from year to year to survive. The tourist is king to these companies and soon they may be a thing of the past.

One good example of this is my own tour company, Marvelous Marv's Private Tours, that I have owned and operated for the past 4 years, based in Williams, Arizona 50 miles south of the Grand Canyon's South Rim. I take my patrons on an adventure through time and so far, everyone who has ever been on one of my tours has had nothing but good things to say. The proof is in the books that I ask all of my guests to sign on their way home from a full day of Northern Arizona lore and legend. I try to personalize all of my tours to suit my patrons, and I hope that those who have traveled with me, take a piece of the Grand Canyon as well as what I have tried to impart, home with them. Whether home be Perth Australia or Phoenix, Arizona, I have had the opportunity to touch the lives of many people through my tours.

This is all about to come to a screeching halt! Beginning in 1998, the entry fees that I pay for my 10 passenger van will increase from the current $45 fee to, get ready for this folks, $125.00 PER DAY! That's a whopping $3,750.00 a month!! Sit down for a minute and take a deep breath and then read that over again! Yes it is true. The government has once again targeted the little guy (that's me!) to pay for all the hidden costs, instead of either passing them on to corporate America or spreading them out so that everyone pays. THIS IS JUST PLAIN RIDICULOUS AND UNFAIR!!

I ask you, can you find fairness in the obvious injustice? How can the Government, i.e. the Park Service justify this blatant example of TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION? If the Park Service were the King of England and the Grand Canyon were Boston Harbor--WELL-- does anything more need to be said?

Up to $10 million in Fee Demonstration funds will go toward the plaza's construction. About $700,000 in Federal Lands Highway Program funds will also be used.

Anyone driving into Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim entrance during the peak months has undoubtedly experienced a wait unless you go on a tour such as mine. That's what I'm all about! After getting into the park, another challenge can be finding a parking spot. And motorists need to concentrate on their driving to make sure no pedestrians or bicyclists dart out into the road let alone fall off the rim of the grand canyon! Another reason for my services as a Private Guide.

Those are a few of the factors leading to the decision to implement a new transit system. By 2002, the park's light-rail component is expected to be finished.

"After exploring several options, light rail was selected as the optimum mode for travel from the gateway community of Tusayan to the parks," GCNP superintendent Robert L. Arnberger said. "We believe this combination, along with a new transit center offering orient services, will provide visitors a quality experience at a great national park."

The journey to the selected transportation proposal began with the 1995 General Management Plan. After several steps which included environmental studies and public input (ya right), a final proposal was adopted in October 1997. In other words Americans..... 'done deal', whether you like it or not, with you paying for it; last price tag for this 'plan' at $389,000.000.00!

The most intriguing part of the plan is the light-rail system, which will reduce noise and emissions in the park. Day-use visitors of the park will travel by light rail from a 3,500-car parking lot north of Tusayan, which is just outside the South entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park. There is also something of great local and National interest that is taking place in the same general area of Tusayan.

Developers will be able to build housing, hotels and restaurants on 272 acres of prime national forest land just south of the Grand Canyon under a plan endorsed Friday by federal officials. The $330 million Canyon Forest Village project in Kaibab National Forest, a gateway to the canyon, will include 1,270 hotel rooms and 270,000 square feet of retail space, the equivalent of four large department stores. The project also involves developing 20 acres to house people working at Grand Canyon National Park. ``Free enterprise in this region is alive and well,'' said Eleanor Towns, Southwest regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service, which approved the plan. Not everyone is so happy. Several area businessmen and politicians have threatened to sue to stop the development. Locals fear a major commercial center will cut into their profits and threaten ground water supplies ``When you add a Canyon Forest Village to the mix of an already fragile tourism economy I think you can do significant damage to a community like Flagstaff,'' said Rick Lopez, city councilman in Flagstaff, 80 miles south of the canyon. Flagstaff resident and Navajo tribe member Sam Minkler said he doesn't like the way such projects are commercializing what was once held sacred. "I personally miss our olden ways,'' said Minkler, noting the Navajo Nation was among the tribes that backed the project.

``But not now. We're trying too hard to be part of America.'' Canyon Forest Village was the more ambitious of two plans considered by the Forest Service. The other plan, supported by local businesses, would have cut out 50 acres for federal housing and community facilities. Towns said Canyon Forest Village would better serve tourists, help address a housing crunch in the region and help control development. The Forest Service traded the project land along U.S. 180 for 2,220 acres scattered throughout the forest that she noted could have been developed without any promises the environment would be safeguarded. Project developer Tom De Paolo and his investors (Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of Interior, being this groups attorney for three years, I might add) wooed local environmental groups and tribes into supporting Canyon Forest Village by promising to transport Colorado River water by train and pipeline from Arizona's western border instead of depleting ground wells in the park. Keep in mind that the Colorado River is the most controversial river in the World and all water is already spoken for! Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Robert Arnberger said the park needed to look for outside solutions to its problems. Living space has gotten so scarce at the park that at peak times, many of the 3,500 residents are forced to cram into old, broken down trailers and tents.

What was not stated is the fact that there are currently 11 vacant $100,000.00 homes available IN the Park! ``We have always looked at solving problems within our boundaries, creating a kind of island mentality.'' Arnberger said.

The Forest Service's decision ended five years of analysis and public wrangling over how to develop the national forest and who gets to benefit from it. ``I'm exhausted,'' De Paolo said. ``I'm anxious and looking forward to working with the community in implementing this project.'' Officials with the Grand Canyon Trust, an environmental group, applauded the Forest Service's decision. ``This new gateway community will meet the needs of the park and its visitors, protect the regional environment and become an outstanding model for the park system nationwide,'' said trust president Geoff Barnard. Keep in mind that Mr. Babbitt is one of the main Chairpersons of the Grand Canyon Trust!

There will also be limited parking at Desert View on the East Rim drive. Parking areas will be removed at Mather Point (Worlds most popular), El Tovar Hotel, Bright Angel Lodge and in the railroad yard area in the village's historic district. Two hotels also will be removed. Parking along the East Rim/Desert View Drive (a State Highway) will also be restricted. The light rail ride from the Tusayan parking area to Canyon View Information Plaza will be about 10 minutes. A train every 15 minutes, moving up to 40,000 people a day with an estimated cost of $8 to $12 per person for the ride! Local word is that you may also be charged a parking fee prior to being shuttled into the Park via a light rail. Welcome to Disneyland folks!

The transit system will also include service west to Hermits Rest and east to Desert View and service within Grand Canyon Village. Transit stations will be at the Tusayan parking lot, the plaza and at a transit center near Maswik Lodge. Alternative fuel buses will serve routes within the park. These buses, powered by natural gas or electricity, will provide a quieter and cleaner vehicle compared to conventional fuel vehicles. The rail and bus components will both be designed to accommodate visitors of all ages and abilities. In other words you'll wait in long lines in the hot summer sun or cold winter rains and snow in the off season with very little shelter! Overnight visitors will have a different option. To transport overnight gear most efficiently, visitors with overnight lodging, camping or recreational vehicle reservations will be allowed to drive to the designated parking area for their accommodations. Once at their destinations, these visitors will then travel within the park utilizing the new transit system.


Update..... 9-3-99

Folks, keep in mind that the United States Park Service intends to set a precedent at Grand Canyon National Park for all National Parks throughout the United States ...... ...

The National Park Service (NPS) will implement a visitor transportation system for the South Rim of the Grand Canyon through a concessions contract. The successful Concessionaire/Contractor will finance, design, build, operate and maintain (DBOM) light-rail and bus transit service and receive a fee from each park visitor over the contract term. Tour bus service, for a separate fee, will also be included in the contract.

The light-rail service will transport visitors between a transportation center near the community of Tusayan, Arizona, and two locations within the park; Mather Point and Maswik Lodge. It is planned that the light-rail service will operate year-round and will carry 4200 passengers per hour in peak periods. The light-rail system will require approximately 9 miles of double-track. The transit bus service will operate within the park on several fixed routes, year-round. The NPS will supply the Contractor with all the existing Grand Canyon transit vehicles owned by the NPS. The Contractor shall supplement the existing NPS transit bus fleet with any additional vehicles as necessary. The tour bus service will provide exclusive guided tours within the park. It is estimated that the tour bus fleet will require thirty 40' buses. The NPS expects that all vehicles, both rail and bus, will be of low-floor design, fueled with natural gas, and designed to minimize noise and exhaust emissions.

The selected Contractor shall also be responsible for financing, designing, and constructing the majority of the necessary infrastructure for the light-rail and bus operations. This shall include but is not limited to track infrastructure, stations, signal systems, maintenance facilities, and access roads. The NPS will retain ownership and will retire the Contractor's financial interest in all fixed facilities and rail vehicles over the course of a specified schedule.

Update..... 10-10-99
Seems the 'big boys' are meeting to put this transportation plan together without public knowledge. Be aware folks...... won't be long.... and you headin' for Disneyland of the Grand Canyon! Best come soon with me and see it before it's too late!

Finally, the reality of Grand Canyon National Park's new bus and light-rail transit system hit officials last week after an on-site informational meeting drew 132 interested attendees. Brad Traver, GCNP transportation manager, said the Sept. 28 event was a landmark day for the project. "We've been talking about it a lot and this was an offical event," Traver said, "It validates the process that this is a real project. It was a very good feeling to have that many people particated." Jim Tuck, transportation director, estimated the attendees represented at least 50 companies and perhaps up to 60. "We were delighted because it shows number one, there's a great deal of interest with this project nationwide and number two, there's a competive atmosphere around this project and I hope that means we'll get competive bids." The request for qualifications, or Phase 1 Prospectus, is on the street now, Traver said, and that process will close November 19.

Prospective bidders at last weeks's informational meeting were given a basic overview of the project, site tour of the three key sites and were able to submit questions. After the Nov. 19th RFQ closing date, submissions will be evaluated and a short list of qualified bidders compiled. The process will continue until a final request for propsals is sent out to bidders. Traver said by the time the process is finished, it will have taken about one full year. That time-frame would have a contract awarded in August 2000. The attendees included several people from arounmd the country. Some potential bidders were from as far away as Boston, New York, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. Firms based in Canada and France were also represented.

Update..... 10-17-99

I have added a map of Canyon Forest Village to the site. This is the "master-planned community" of thousands of motel rooms and parking spaces at the front gate of the Grand Canyon. You can find it by clicking here.

Update..... 11-7-99

Park Service and Forest Service in bed together at Grand Canyon

Article by Brad Trevor
Grand Canyon National Park Spokesperson

Although Regional Forester Ellie Towns needed no help in eloquently delivering her decision on the Tusayan Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) August 6th, Grand Canyon National Park stands beside her and her agency as we have since the start of the EIS process some 5+ years ago. This is the Park Services’ explanation as to why they agree with Ms. Town’s decision. Ms. Towns is the Regional Forester and makes final decisions on the outcome of YOUR lands! In this case The National Forest lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon National Park.

First, in order to support additional commercial development near the park, the National Park Service must believe two things: that there is a federal benefit to supporting the development and that the same kind or similar development would occur in the area anyway, whether the federal government takes action or not.

The Federal benefit to supporting the proposed development is multifaceted. Land with infrastructure will be made available for housing park employees and/or park concessionaire’s employees. A 20-acre high school site with infrastructure will be donated to the school district. Land with infrastructure and in some cases the buildings themselves will be provided for other community uses like police and fire stations. day care, library, and a community building. Land with infrastructure will be set aside for places of worship. Since none of these uses are economically self-supporting, infrastructure is an import contribution, even though it will not solve all the area’s problems - houses will still need to be built by other, etc. Having building sites with infrastuctue is half the battle. Some argue that there is land with infrastructure inside the park, in Grand Canyon Village, which should be used for these purposes, rather than supporting commercial development which subsidizes the uses on private land. In response, we feel the community should be extended to Tusayan because Tusayan has grown in recent years and it is not appropriate to expand community facilities on federal land in support of that growth. Tusayan needs to share the burden of supporting a growing community. Further, when the park was formed in the early decades of this century, there was no alternative to building the community on federal lands.
There is no question that Canyon Forest Village will change the Grand Canyon/Tusayan area.

Will it be a change for the better?

Now, with private lands nearby, the onus need not be entirely on the federal lands. Lastly, people who care about the environment (ya right) has clearly shaped the proposed development and who care about he Native Americans of the area. (Give me a break!) Adherence to the principles of sustainable development, volunteering to leave the groundwater aquifer essentially untouched, contributing to community and environmental programs through a self-imposed business assessment, and providing a wide range of opportunities for Native Americans - these attributes make Canyon Forest Village complimentary to what the park is doing in implement the General Management…(Don’t forget folks. the $$$$$ too), eh? While the proof of these proposals will be in their application, a development done this way is a far cry form the hodgepodge gateway that has developed in Tusayan since the 1930’s. There is no question that Canyon Forest Village will change the Grand Canyon/Tusayan area. Will it be a change for the better? We believe it will at least be better than the alternatives.

Update..... 07-17-2000

National parks off-limits
U.N.-designated panel
calls for increased 'buffer zones'

                Last year a United Nations-designated
               panel, at the behest of the Clinton
               administration, called for the creation of
               uninhabited "buffer zones" around several
               U.S. national parks. Since then roughly two
               dozen U.S. parks and preserves, covering
               millions of acres of public land, have been
               included in the plan.


               Now, however, new plans to expand these
               zones are in the works, and the outrage has
               reached a near fever pitch among experts
               who say these U.N.-designated sites are
               merely attempts to "globalize" huge
               portions of the United States -- with
               taxpayers picking up the tab.

               Henry Lamb of Eco-Logic -- a watchdog
               organization that monitors U.N. activities
               and U.S. sovereignty issues -- told
               WorldNetDaily that one example -- at
               Yellowstone National Park, where the
               creation of a larger buffer zone is well
               underway -- was "just a sign of things to

               "Inside Yellowstone, the U.S. Park Service
               is shutting down campgrounds as the park
               is being prepared to become the core of a
               huge biosphere reserve, as part of the
               United Nations global biodiversity plan,"
               he said. "Once established, no human
               activity will be permitted in the area," even
               though U.S. taxpayers must continue to fund
               the maintenance and upkeep of
               Yellowstone and other popular outdoor
               tourist sites.

               Lamb said that in order to increase the
               buffer zone around Yellowstone, the Park
               Service drove local businesses away by
               refusing to maintain access roads. When the
               businesses folded as a result of heavy
               financial losses, the land was bought with
               taxpayer money and a larger zone of
               inaccessibility was created by default.

               "Once they buy the land, the government is
               obviously not going to resell it," he said,
               thus creating permanently larger buffer

               "The purpose of establishing sites as U.S.
               national parks was to have people in them
               enjoying them," Lamb added. "But the
               Clinton administration has completely
               bought into this U.N. notion that our land
               ought to be their land, managed by them.
               And as such, it ought to be uninhabited as

               He said if most Americans "knew what was
               going on (with their national parks), the
               uproar would be deafening."


               In the case of Yellowstone, Lamb said the
               government's acquiescence to the U.N.'s
               agenda cost a gold mining company about
               $30 million and in the end prevented them
               from mining one ounce of known gold
               reserves, even though the government
               indicated they initially would have allowed

               "The owners of the Crown Butte New
               World gold mine, which is outside of
               Yellowstone National Park," he said,
               "were told by the government to comply
               with a list of environmental requirements
               before they could move in and begin

               But after being threatened with non-stop
               litigation from environmental groups
               funded by U.N. agencies that could have
               lasted decades, the mining company finally
               agreed to a deal that leaves at least $650
               million of known gold reserves in the
               ground instead. That deal provided the
               company with about $65 million dollars for
               "more exploration." Of that amount, the
               government said about $21 million had to
               be used for "environmental clean-up."

               Lamb said that Congress has consistently
               ignored Clinton administration orders and
               directives designed to implement many of
               the U.N. mandates. Clinton, he said, is
               implementing U.N. directives via executive
               order and presidential directive "because
               then he doesn't have to worry about getting
               Senate treaty ratification."

               At present a U.N.-sponsored biodiversity
               treaty, designed to limit U.S. public access
               to so-called "World Heritage Sites" and
               "Biodiversity sites" is languishing in the
               Senate. No action is scheduled on its

               Lamb added that in the course of the next
               several years, with no congressional
               oversight, the addition of more U.S. parks
               to the "Heritage" and "Biodiversity" sites
               lists will follow.

               "It is a well-documented fact that the U.N.
               is trying to gain control over vast amounts
               of U.S. territories to herd more people into
               cities where they are more manageable,"
               Lamb said. "That can't be done without at
               least tacit approval from Congress,
               regardless of the political agenda of any

               Lamb said he has "allies" in Congress that
               are opposed to the implementation of this,
               and other, U.N.-mandated land use plans.

               "But they're relatively few and as such
               equally unsuccessful" in stopping such
               initiatives, he added.


Taken from the Arizona Daily Sun 21 November 2000

Despite earlier hopes that electricity or natural gas would power Grand Canyon National Park’s proposed light rail system, officials now say diesel engines likely will be used.

Park officials blamed the switch on the prohibitive cost of building a new electric transmission line to the park and the unavailability of train engines powered by propane or another clean-burning fuel. The move toward diesel is disappointing to the Grand Canyon Trust, which prefers an electric train with zero emissions. “The trust would really prefer to see electric light rail because there are air quality issues associated with diesel,” said Rick Moore, a Grand Canyon Trust program officer working on canyon air pollution issues.

The tranist system will cost up to $200 MILLION and is expected to begin operation in 2004. Its aim is to remove thousands of cars from Grand Canyon National Park that clog parking lots and vent engine exhaust into the air at the South Rim. The light rail terminal and its massive parking lot will be located north of Tusayan outside the park.

The 100-foot-long train cars with a capacity of 175 passengers each will travel from the Tusayan terminal to the newly opened Canyon View Information Plaza near Mather Point. A spur line will eventually connect the new visitor center to the Heritage education campus at Grand Canyon Village. Originally, park planners had envisioned a train powered by natural gas or electricity, said Jim Tuck, a Grand Canyon National Park transportation and information specialist.

“But at this point it appears for a variety of reasons it will be diesel,” said Tuck. The problem with using electric trains is the lack of adequate electrical capacity at the park. The cost of a new transmission line and the required environmental impact study has forced planners to abandon an electric train. Alternative fuels such as clean burning propane are preferred, but there’s a significant problem said Tuck. “There are no natural gas light-rail vehicles on the market today’, he said. Moore said diesel trains are “certainly an improvement compared to the thousands of cars that congest park roadways and bring many of the 4.9 million visitors to Grand Canyon National Park each year.

Tuck agreed. “You’re pulling a lot of cars off the roadway with the light rail. It will still be a win,” said Tuck, adding, “But we’re disappointed. Obviously we want to rise to the highest level we can.” The request for proposals for the train system was supposed to be issued next month, but continued work on the project by a congressional oversight committee has pushed the timetable back, Tuck said. The National Park Service had expected to receive bids on the train by March. Planners expect to receive bids by railroad companies utilizing diesel engine technology, but there is a chance that some kind of clean-burning alternative fuel engine could be developed, Tuck said. “We are fantasizing that someone will come through with an idea of how to fit a natural gas engine in. We know there are engines big enough out there to run a light-rail train, but we also understand that no one has done that yet,” he said.

Despite the setback, the 2004 opening of the transit system is still expected to move forward as planned, Tuck said.


Jim Kolbe
2266 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Re: Grand Canyon National Park Light Rail System Proposal

Dear Congressman Kolbe:

The Grand Canyon Light Rail Proposal must never come to fruition. Who ultimately pays for bringing reliable electricity to this remote location? Who ultimately pays for the infrastructure necessary to make a mass transit system work for residents and seasonal day use visitors? The premature decline of natural habitats for flora and fauna is a price too high.

The Light Rail System proposal is contrary to public policy as stated in the 1979 World Heritage Site objective with regard to the convention concerning protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. How is the common inheritance of all mankind preserved by implementing a mass transit system dependent on fossil fuels?

This proposal is a grandiose management plan contrary to the public policy . It has the effect of setting artificial limits to canyon visitation. We are currently in the third week of the revised transportation routes. Visitors are confused, frustrated and by-passing the new information center entirely. And why not? There is no view and there is no information at Canyon View Information Center.

In terms of balancing public recreation with preservation of natural resources, the Light Rail System is counterproductive. The Light Rail System, while reminiscent of Disneyland, is contrary to the public interest with regard to enjoyment of wildlife and natural resources.

I urge you to do the right thing for your constituents and the public at-large and put a stop to the Grand Canyon National Park Light Rail Proposal.


Marvin L. Mason
Margaret Hodgkins ( Mirkov)
Concerned Citizens


Following is taken from The Arizona Republic on January 7, 2001

A move by Arizona congressmen has stalled a Grand Canyon light-rail system, and some proponent's fear the project is in trouble.

At the request of Sen. Jon Kyl and Rep. John Shadegg, National Park Service planners will begin studying next week whether buses are a cheaper and better alternative. The proposed 8.5-mile rail line, with a price tag of more than $100 million, was to carry millions of visitors from Tusayan to the South Rim starting in 2004.

Kyl and Shadegg, along with Ohio Rep. Ralph Regula, stepped in late last year to block the Park Service's call for bids on the project. Now the Republican congressmen have added language to an appropriations bill that ties the Park Service's hands in pursuing the rail system until at least June 1, following further study. "That could kill the train," said Rob Smith, a Southwestern representative of the Sierra Club, which prefers the rail option. "It only takes a letter from a senator or one line in an appropriations bill sometimes to throw an agency off-track, so to speak"

But Shadegg said he simply wants to make sure that the Park Service considers the latest rail technology, whether tourist fares will be too high and whether buses are more viable option. Bidders on the light-rail project wonder whether bus-industry interests are pushing to kill the train. Other environmental and financial concerns about the train have been raised by the Grand Canyon Trust, a Flagstaff-based environmental group. "My personal feeling is that (the train) is not dead, but the Park Service will have to do a lot of justification that it will be reasonably self-supporting, said Tom Robinson, the trust's government affairs director. One of the group's concerns is that a rail system would depend on maintaining visitation at a high enough level to make it work financially. Rail has advantages, but buses offer more flexibility, Robinson said.

Although favored by some environmental groups, politicians and park officials have opposed limiting Canyon visitation. In any case, nearly everyone agrees that something must be done to reduce automobile congestion at the Grand Canyon. On a busy day, the South Rim is swamped with as many as 6,000 drivers jockeying for 2,400 parking spaces. "We need to make it more of a park experience instead of parking lot experience, the Sierra Club's Smith said. However, there is widespread disagreement on how to protect the grandeur of the Canyon and make it a more serene experience for the nearly 6 million annual visitors who are expected by 2010.

Although earlier polls showed 3-1 support among Arizonans for banning cars from the park, some Canyon residents have criticized the transit plan as a heavy-handed solution to a seasonal problem. The rail plan dates to 1995, when the Park Service, as part of its General Management Plan, developed the concept to carry visitors from a 2,800-space parking lot in Tusayan, south of the park, to transit stations near the rim. From there visitors could walk, bike or take shuttle buses along the South Rim. Only campers and hotel visitors would be allowed to drive into the park. One of the first phases of the plan was implemented in October with the closure of the main route to Grand Canyon Village and the opening of the Canyon View Information Plaza, a new visitor center that is also the transit hub.

Park officials were poised to release a call for bids on the rail system on Nov. 1. But that was put on hold after the Republican congressmen met with new park Superintendent Joseph Alston and requested additional study of the rail plan. The Park Service welcomes the review of the transit options, said Brad Traver, who oversees the park's transit plan. It could lead to some federal funding of the project, rather than the light-rail relying solely of fares and park admission fees, he said. Shadegg says the current plan is flawed because it's based on inflated visitation projections, outdated technology and could end up costing each Canyon visitor up to $20 per person to enter the park. "It's my duty to make the experience available to all Americans, not just the wealthy or just the fit," he said.

The plan also requires the train to run year-round, but Shadegg insists that congestion is limited to the summer. There are questions about whether the system would be financially viable if it did not operate all year, said the parks Mallory Smith, a management assistant to the superintendent. Superintendent Alston, who transferred from Glen Canyon National Park last year, was out of town and unavailable for comment.

Five prequalified bidders on the rail system are being asked to finance, build and operate the train and rim shuttle busses on a 20-year contract. Visitor fares will repay the contractor, and the intent is that no federal dollars will be needed to build or operate the system, Traver said. Shadegg and others question whether visitation will sustain the rail system. And the contractors are perplexed because the Park Service has not set the maximum fee for what each tourist can be charged for the train fare and entrance to the park. Park planners initially projected that visitation would increase from nearly 5 million currently to 6.8 million by 2010. But visitation has been flat in recent years, and a revised projection in 1999 set the 2010 figure at 5.9 million, Traver said.

Shadegg also criticized the Park Service for limiting the rail proposals to diesel-powered, steel-wheel trains, which he calls outdated technology. The contractors, who have the transpiration expertise, ought to be able to offer alternatives that include cleaner, electric or natural gas powered trains with rubber-tire wheels, he said. Mark Paul, project executive for one of the rail bidding teams, said each of the teams could have presented bus and rail options and done much of the work that the Park Service will be doing over the next six months. His team which h includes eight entities was disappointed that the project was delayed at the eleventh hour and is concerned about its future, he said.

Robert Lacivita, vice president of the Grand Canyon Railway, a member of another bidding group, expressed similiar concerns. His company operates a historic train between Williams and the Grand Canyon that is separate from the light-rail plan. The delay means that nothing is going to happen until after June 1, and it appears that the current bidders will have to re-qualify for the updated plan, Lacivita said.

That has moved back the completion date beyond 2004.

But the Grand Canyon Trust says it's a good idea to take one more careful look at the plan to make sure it ill work. "If I was writing checks for the thing, I'd want to make sure it's the best way to move people around," Robinson said. "And that it doesn't become a back hole economically."

Personal Comments By Marv On This

As I have stated for many years, we should just have let the Park alone.

Tourism has dropped tremendously in the past two years. Most local businesses are down by a whopping 26% just this year. As I had stated in my famous letter Travesty behind the Treasure, it will eventually cost each citizen $100 bucks a person to get in HIS OR HER National Park! This Plan of light rail is ridiculous! How convenient that Rob Arnberg conveniently leaves his post as Superintendent and who initiated this plan himself in 1995! Most Park Service personnel that are responsible for this boondoggle have only lived here a short time! Average of four years at the most! Most of the 'higher ups' don't even live at the canyon and live in Flagstaff, Arizona, which is 80 miles away.

And how convenient for the Grand Canyon Trust and Grand Canyon Railway to be involved in the 'business' side of this! The Trust is an environmental group, not a business group! The Grand Canyon Railway already has 'special interests' in the Park being as they are already a concensioner in the National Park! Sounds to me as if there is a big time conflict of interest with these two groups, let alone that some of the 'higher UP's in the Grand Canyon Railway are members of the Grand Canyon Trust!

Cost estimates in the previous news article are misquoted as Park officials in several meetings I have personally attended stated the cost of the light rail project might exceed $200 million! Arizona Public Service who provides power to our region states that just to run an electric line to power an electric rail system may exceed $12 million alone! And with the environmental, EIS studies, etc. the time consumed in that would not be cost and time effective. Thus the Park Service states make the rail diesel?

Ya right! Give me a break!

You that read this should be outraged and take action to save the Park and keep it as it is... There is way too much commercial/corporate America interest going on here!


(The Arizona Republic, January 7, 2001)

Grand Canyon leaders are moving to adjust new traffic routes in the national park and are considering reopening the road to Mather Point, a park official said.

Motorists have struggled with the new route into Grand Canyon village since the National Park Service closed the main road in October. That coincided with the opening of Canyon View Information Plaza, the park's new visitor center and hub for bus shuttles and a planned light-rail system. Park and community leaders will meet this week to consider altering the routes, improving signage and other options, said Mallory Smith, a park management assistant. "I hope the public will let us do our job and make the necessary adjustments," she said.

Local residents have pressured the Park Service to once again allow tourists to drive to Mather Point or to reopen the road al the way through to the village, she said. The traditional route into the village is closed just beyond the turnoff off the East Rim Drive. Motorists now are directed to turn left at the parks' first-ever traffic light onto Center Road. From there, they can follow signs to Market Plaza Road and parking areas near the village's general store. They can also continue traveling north on Center Road to the historic train depot and park lodges.

Some visitors have struggled with the new route and ended up in residential areas of the park. School officials also have complained about increased traffic throughout he school zone. Park officials are trying to encourage motorists to park their cars and ride shuttle buses to the new visitor center and scenic overlooks along the South Rim That is the first step in an overall plan to ban most automobile traffic in five years and rely on a light-rail or bus system to enter the park. Park officials are hoping to streamline the new traffic routes during the winter before visitation picks up in the summer.

Tourism deals drain parks, critics say

Article from Arizona Republic

At America's national parks, private tourism businesses collect nearly $880 million annually, while enjoying little competion and marketing of their product by the federal government. For decades they easily renewed long-term contracts, while paying the federal treasury a small fraction of the take.

But as one of the largest concession contracts comes up for renewal this year at Grand Canyon National Park, some critics suggest the parks, badly in need of improvements, are getting a raw deal.

Amfac Parks & Resorts is poised to bid on a new 10-year contract at the Grand Canyon that would pull in close to $1 billion over the next decade from hotels, restaurants and shops on the South Rim. In return, the Aurora, Colorado based firm would pay the federal government an estimated $45 million, or less than 5 percent of receipts and less than half the rate it pays for similar concessions in state parks. Amfac will have to to renew its deal at the Canyon. But because of federal rules governing National Park Service concessions, any other bidders would have to pay Amfac $165 million for what it spent to build or improve the park's facilities. That's liable to discourage potential bidders, park officials and critics say. "I think the taxpayers can do better than a total return of 4.7 percent," said Dave Simon, regional director of the National Parks Conservation Association. "The Park Service is getting squeezed between a rock and the redwall sanstone of the Grand Canyon."

Maintenance and protection of the Canyon suffers in part because concession fees are so low, said Rosalyn Fennell, Wilderness Society director of national park programs. "They are cash-strapped even at a park like Grand Canyon" she said.

Amfac executives declined comment on its bid for a new contract. However, Amfac Vice President Stephen Tedder said the federal governement already has reformed the concession system. Amfac would pay the park at least 3.8 percent of revenue under the new contract. It also would be required to make $8.5 million in improvements to the property, which would increase the percentage to 4.7%. In the open market, a hotel operator have to pay anywhere from 7 percent to 120 percent in management, marketing and franchise fees to the owner, said Francis Kercheval, a Phoenix hotel industry consultant and ormer Wyndham Buttes Resort general manager. Amfac, a privately held company owned by Chicago-base Northbrook Corp., is one of the country's largest national park contractors. Besides the Grand Canyon, it operates tourist facilities at premier national parks such as Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Death Valley, Bryce, Zion, Petrifeid Forest and Everglades.

But Amfac is not alone. About 500 concessionaires operate in 384 national parks, monuments and historic areas. Amfac, Delaware North and Aramark have some of the largest concession deals. More than 286 million visit U.S. national parks each year, the equivalent of one visit for every American. Concession operators took in $793 million and paid the Park Service $44.2 million - about 5.6 percent- in 1999, the most recent numbers available. Concessionaires also pay to build and improve park lodges and other facilities. Amfac spent million restoring El Tovar and Hopi House at Grand Canyon and close to $22 million to restore two lodges at Yellowstone. But unlike other commercial leases, park leaseholders who give up their interests are paid on the full replacement costs of the facilities they build or repair in the park instead of a depreciated value of those assets. And at the same time, concessionaires are allowed to depreciate the value of facilites for tax purposes.

Concessions reform legislation in 1998 had included language to phase out those payments, but it was removed in a compromise to get the bill passe, said David Brooks, Democratic counsel for the Senate Energy and Natuaral Resources Committee. "That does limit the field of who can compete," he said. Amfac has run the nearly 900-park hotel rooms and other visitor services at the Grand Cany9on for the past 30 years under its existing park contract. In 1968, Amfac acquired the Fred Harvey Co., which had run visitor facilities since the park's inception in 1919, and built many of the facilites before that, including the historic El Tovar Hotel in 1905.

In the 1998 reforms, Congress limited park concession contracts of at least $5000,00.00 to no more than 10 years. It also stopped the practice of concessionaires' being able to renew their contracts by agreeing to match any competioor's bid. bids for a new 10-year contract at Grand Canyon National Park will be taken through Aug. 2, and the new contract would begin on Jan. 1. Under the park's request for proposals, the successful bider would recieve $922 million, and pay the federal government $45 million, according to estimates the the National Parks and Conservation Association, a non-profit park watchdog group. Those numbers are based on current reveue streams plus increased hotel rates that are likely over the life of the contract. Last year, Amfac's subsidiary, Grand Canyon National Park Lodges, collected $71.8 million last year from the Canyon's 4.8 million visitors, while paying the park $2.5 million, or about 3.5 percent of revenue. In contrast, Amfac paid Ohio 10.5 percent of the $30.2 million in gross receipts last year from the state's park lodges. Raymond Gunn, Grand Canyon National Park chief of concession management, said any bidder for the Canyon deal would have to pay Amfac &165 million for its financial interests in the park's historic hotels and facilities. "Clearly that has a dampening effect on interest in the contract," he said.

One potential Amfac competior is Delaware North, which operates the South Rim's grocery store and tourist services at Yosemite. The firm is reviewing the Canyon contract, although it is too early to say whether it will submit a bid, said Gary Fraker, company vice president for park development. He said removing the right of concession holders to renew contracts by simply matching competiros' bids has leveled the playing field. But competing bidders have to decide whether they can amortize over 10 years the $165 million that they would pay Amfac if they won the contract. The Canyon's winning bidder will be required to pay a 1 percent maintenance fee and spend $8.5 million over 10 years to tear down and new facilites for tourists and employees. The winner also will be required to convert some historic buildings now used as employee dorms to guest lodges. However, the contract does not include tearing down the Kachina and Thundergbird lodges, which are targeted for removal from the South Rim a a 1995 Park Service plan. "Our hope is that concession reform would led to a better return for taxpayers and more funds to protect and improve the parks," said Simon of the National Parks Conservation Association. The associtation believes the federal government should buy out Amfac's interest in park properties because its value will only increase, Simon said. Otherwise, the problems with competive bidding would remain 10 years from now when the contract comes up for renewal. In the meantime, the Grand Canyon and other national parks are in need of improvements. Critics say the park concessions shortchange taxpayers and produce little money to fund the nation's $5 billion backlog of park maintenance, from improvements in third-world employee housing to eliminationg trail harzards. At Grand Canyon, everything from fixing potholes to biological surverys and resouce studies don't get done bcause of tight budgets, said Fennell of the Wilderness Society.

"These are America's public playgrounds and the Park Service is looking aroiund and realizing that it has to do something about the resource damage," she said. "They realize that their preservation manadate is falling a little short."

You can find the full contract available on the internet by going to this website......

Thursday, May 17, 2001


By litigation, by legislation and by referendum, plans to control the development and use of Grand Canyon National Park have been put on hold in recent months.

The plans -- which affect visitor access to the main vantage points at the canyon's rim, air-tour companies, and construction of housing and hotels -- are all part of a master plan for the park that has been under development for almost 10 years. But it will be a few more months or possibly years before most of the plans take effect, and some could be overturned by opponents.

The most recent delay for the National Park Service came last month, when the Federal Aviation Administration bowed to objections from companies that conduct sightseeing tours in helicopters and small planes. These have long been a popular way to see the canyon, but there have been safety concerns after a series of crashes -- including one involving a helicopter last April, in which seven people were injured -- and complaints that aircraft noise impinges on the sense of wilderness in the park.

The FAA, with the strong support of the park service, had issued new rules to take effect last year, limiting where and how frequently the air tours could operate. The rules were intended to restore "natural quiet" to big sections of the park's backcountry. The tour operators challenged the rules in court, saying they were based on flawed studies and would wreck the industry, but failed to win a restraining order. Late last year, just before the limitations were to take effect, the operators presented a new objection to the FAA, saying that industry studies raised safety issues. The operators suggested that, because of the proposed restrictions, too many flights would be funneled into too little airspace in some corridors. The agency has agreed to continue to examine the case for at least a few more months, although it has said it might put some of the restrictions in place this spring. But the air tour operators are increasingly optimistic that they will prevail. Their litigation was pressed by the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a conservative legal advocacy group whose alumni include Gale Norton, the former attorney general of Colorado who is President Bush's new Department of Interior secretary, and hence the new boss of the park service.

The Bush administration has pledged to review many environmental regulations proposed by the Clinton administration, and the industry is committed to persuading Norton to include the air-tour restrictions in any review, said Bill Summers, legislative director at the Helicopter Association International. Rep. James Hansen, R-Utah, the new chairman of the House Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the parks, wrote to President Bush recommending less stringent environmental rules. Southwestern Republicans also have succeeded in putting on hold the park's ambitious plan to build an 8 1/2-mile light-rail system that would carry tourists to the park's South Rim and almost eliminate automobile traffic in that part, where roads have become extremely congested. The proposal, which would cost $100 million to $200 million, was approved by the park service in 1997, but just before bids were to be taken from contractors, Rep. John Shadegg and Sen. Jon Kyl, both Arizona Republicans, blocked it. They attached a rider to a spending bill demanding that the park service first conduct more studies of alternatives, such as the use of buses instead of trains. Shadegg has said that he's worried the plan will raise the cost of visiting the park too high for many people.

With a rail system or buses, the effect on most day-visitors to the South Rim would be more or less the same. They would park at a distance from the rim and take mass transit to the sightseeing point, where the park has just opened a big visitors center. However, it's now unclear whether a rail system will be installed by 2004, if at all. Even less certain are the prospects for a new gateway community, called Canyon Forest Village, which was to be built near Tusayan, a hotel and restaurant town just south of the park boundary, on the main road to the South Rim. The 272-acre development would have provided thousands of homes for park workers, as well as hundreds of new hotel rooms for visitors and hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial buildings. Under the new mass transit plan, it also would have been the main transportation hub for people entering the park. But in a local referendum on Nov. 7, the plan was resoundingly defeated by a margin of about 2 to 1. Business owners in nearby communities had argued that the development was not needed, citing hotel vacancies and slower growth recently in the number of visitors.

Like so much else in the park managers' master plan, this project, too, is now back on the drawing board.

Update Oct 22,2001

Taken from the Arizona Republic article of Oct. 6th by Peter Corbett

A decade ago, some park advocates hoped that by now a light-rail train would whisk visitors into Grand Canyon Nation Park - and keep cars out. But no private business stepped foward with the needed capital, expertise or willingness to take on such a long-term risk, especially while some politicains were publicly opposing the notion of mass transit in Arizona's premier natural wonder. The latest plans call for a combination of light-rail trains and buses, which could cost taxpayers as much as $200 million, according to a new National Park Sercie report that outlines eight new transit alternatives for Grand Canyon.

An 8.5 mile light-rail system is still in the mix of options to shuttle the park's nearly 5 million annual visitors between the gateway community of Tusayan and the park's new visitors center; the Canyon View Information Plaza. But the National Park Service has scrapped hopes of relying on private decvelopers to fund and build the train, which would be a smaller version of the large steam-powred locomotive that runs daily along a 60-mile route between Willaims and Grand Canyon Villiage. Instead, they are looking at federal taxpayers to help fund the transportation improvements.

A privately financed light-rail train, developed as part of the park's 1995 management plan, was halted last fall by Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz.; Sen. Joh Kyl, R-Ariz; and Rep. Ralph regula, R-Ohio. They forced the Park Service to consider alternatives beacuse they feared the private financing arrangement could mean Grand Canyon visitors might pay exorbitant fares on top of park entrance fees. Park officals had hoped the nation's first light-rail train in a national park would be financed by one of five developent teams it selected. The developers would have built and operated the rail line in exchange for fare revenues over a 20-year contract.

But is was daunting for developers to invest up to $200 million on a nation al park rail system they ultimately would not own, said Robert LaCivita, exectutive vice president of Grand Canyon Railway, which wa among the five light-rail development teams. Enviromental intrests, who have long supported efforts to build a rail system, also questioned the private financing concept because viistor costs could soar.

"That was the wrong approach," said Dave Simon, Soutwest reginal director of the National Parks Consrvation Association. "The reality is that a mass transit system at Grand Canyon deserves and needs some public financing." The federal government spends billions supporting public trainsit, and Grand Canyon is essentially serving the needs of a medium-size town" Simon said.

"There's an old saying that you've got to lay the track if you want to drive the train," Simon said. "We can lay it cheaper now." The Park Service had planned to add 2,800 parking spaces in Tusayan, where visitors would park their cars and then boadrd the light-rail trains that would take them about eight miles into the park and its new Canyon 'no' view Inforation Plaza.

As a possible interim step until the light -rail trains are ready, park planners are considering the use of buses to shuttle between Tusayan and Canyon View.

The timetable for developing the revised transit system is unclear, but the Park Service is not expected to make decisions until next year, and a rail line is not expected before January 2004.

"No option is going to be cheap," Simon said. "But Grand Canyon deserves the best system, and over the long run the light-rail system is the best the the national park."

October 4, 2001
Office of the Secretary of Interior


Interior Secretary Gale Norton today announced that all entrance fees to national park areas will be waived during Veterans Day Weekend, Noverber 10,.11 and 12, 2001, to allow Americans the opportunity to seek solace and inspiration from the Nation's parks, monuments and memorials. "We all continue to be saddened and horrified by the magnitude of tragedy our nation has undergone, but we cannot give hate-filled terrorist a victory by forcing us to live in fear, " said Norton, who made the announcement during a speech in Denver last night. "It's tragedies like these that make healing process in our parks, where Americans can draw strength from nation icons of freedom and peace from splendors of nature."

The Secretary said that one of these national icons - Federal Hall National Memorial, which ws just three blocks from the World Trade Center and where George Wahsington took the first prestdetial oath of office - became a refuge to many fleeing the destruction of buildings all around it. "Federal Hall, though damaged, still stands as a beacon of hope and of American perserverance in adversity,: said Norton.

She also commended many memberts of Congress for their strong interest and support in urging all Americans to look to national parks and other public lands for the comfort and encouragement these special places provide. "This Veteran's Day weekend, I encourage all Americans to join together with family and friends to honor the victims of our recent tragedies along with the vetrans who protect our Nation's freedom and democracy," said Norton. "And I urge everone to take advantage of this special opportunity to visit our nations' historic, cultural and natural treasures to reconnect with the values that have made this nation great."

The National Park Service, an Interior Departement agency, manages the Nations Park System, which comprese of 385 areas covering more thatn 84 million acres in every state (exceprt Delaware), the District of Colubmbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These areas inclued national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historcial parks, historic sites, lakeshores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House.

Article from the Lumberjack Newspapaper
Oct. 24, 2001

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast, tourism-driven industries across the United States were hurt drastically, and the sharp decline in travel is still being felt at the crown jewel of the national park system.

At Grand Canyon National Park, officals say they are continuing to see a significant decline in travlers - even more than a month after the attacks.

Figures compiled Oct. 19 showed overall visitation to the canyon was down 32 percent through mid-October, compared to the same time period in 2000.

The park saw the most significant decrease in visitors who use tour buses to get to and from the park. Commercial tours were down 51 percent in October, said Maureen Oltrogee, a public affairs officer with Grand Canyon National Park.

She said September's figures showed decreases as well. The month ended with a 26 percent decline in visitors, including a 62 percent drop in commercial tours.

The Grand Canyon was hurt more drastically than other national parks because it relies more heavily on international visitors, Oltrogee said. "In most cases, parks that had experienced a noticeable reduction in visitation the weeks following Sept. 11, that reduction has leveled off and returned to normal. The parks that have a sizable-percentage of internation visitors saw an almost total dsapperance of that segment in the later part of September," she said.

Although many buses to the canyon start their treks ouside Arizona, local tour operators are feeling the crunch and have still not seen a rebound in business.

"Noboody's traveling," said Kerren Vollmer, the vice presidnet and co-owner of Flagstaff based Nava-Hopi Tours. "People are traveling only if they have to and we are seeing very little tourism 'just for the fun of it.' It's just totally devastating."

Vollmer, whose company also operates daily transportation routes to Phoenix, said she has watched huge declines in that service as people opt to drive their own cars instead.

"They want to be in their own vehicles; they want to be in control of their own destiney," she said.

Vollmer said her satff was concerned about passenger safetey, but since they are'nt trained in security, they can't do much more than give each passenger's a "cursory glance." In all, Vollmer's company has seen a 75 percent drop in business since Sept. 11. That figure, she said, includes the company's daily Grand Canyon tours, its shuttle servies, and other tours to natural attractions like Meteor Crater, Petrified Forest National Monument and the Sedona area.

In Flagstaff, a community fueled by tourism to the area's natural attractions, many hotels have been having trouble attracting enough visitors to turn a profit, according to date compiled by NAU"s Arizona Hopitality Reasearcch and Resource Center.

And if the trend continues, there could be lasting damage to Flagstaff's economy.

"There's a lot of tourism employment in Flagstaff. That would be ther first thing that would be hit. People would be laid off in hotels, restaurants and other parts of the hospitality industry," said Cheryl Cothran, the director of the resource center. "Flagstaff also gets a lot of money from the BBB ('Bed, Board and Booze') tax - the tax on lodging, resturants and bars. The city takes in aobut $3.7 million each year from the BBB tax. And that's clearly going to be affected if toursim continues to be down."

Cothran said the sharp declines in toursm at the Grand Canyon could likely be tied to the world's skittish approach to air travel. Even though northern Arizona gets a lot of freeway traffic, most Grand Canyon visitors are from distant locations and are funneled through airports in Phoenix and Las Veras, she said.

Industry experts, including economists at the NAU College of Business Administration, are indicating northern Arizona tourism is facing another two or three quarters of depression before the market starts to recover. But those working in the industry are hoping for an early bounce back.

"I really hope it doesn't take that long. But if nothing else happens, I think around April or May we're going to start hitting it again, beacause Americans love to travel," Vollmer said. "They want their vacation, they want their free time and they have the pent up derire to go see things like the Grand Canyon."

Added note..... As of October 25,2001 (one day after this article) Nava/Hopi Lines clossed their doors and ceased operation!

National Park Service Restricts Web Access

The recent decision by a federal judge to shutdown the Department of the Interior's e-mail system and the various Internet sites of its agencies, such as the National Park Service, may have been necessary beacause of an online security breach. But let's hope things will be up and running soon. Going online to seek information about a possible vacation is becoming commonplace among both the American and internaitional public. You can find things out in the privacy of your own home, you don't have to listen to a sales pitch and it's free. You can check the availablity of campgrounds, see what accomadations are nearby and figure out how many miles you need to drive.

Fortunately, the shutdwown came during tyhre slow time of the year. Still, the system was down over the holidays and it's difficult to tell if Grand Canyon lost any tourists over that time period. A few weeks ago, the park's public affairs officer said the number of phone calls had not increased dramatically.

Let's hope tourists who want to see the Grand Canyon are going elsewhere online for the information. There are various Web sites out there offering that very thing, such as those maintained by the Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce, Amfac Parks and Resorts and many businesses, including the online tour guide created by the Williams/Grand Canyon News, which is a joke.

Last week, the National Park Service did put up a message for those who were attempting to access their Web sites. "Due to conditions outside our bureau, the National Park Service has suspended operation of ParkNet, Links to the Past and Nature Net until further notice," the message reads. "We apologize for this inconvenience and are working to restore service as soon as possible."

Fortunately, there are a few important sources of information related to the NPS that were up and running beginning on Jan. 15. Service was restored to the National Park Serivice's online campsite and tour service. Reservation can be made at selected parks, including Grand Canyon. We know that Grand Canyon National Park has been dealt a situation beyond its control. DUH! Park officials are just as concerned as everybody else over the possible loss of business and $$$$$!

The system ha been dowen for more than a month, so let's hope everything gets back to normal in the near future before the recent poor conditions for tourism become even worse.

What has failed to be mentioned to the media/people is that the system was hacked due to the Federal governement/BIA/Dept. of Inferior ripping off the Native American for Billions of Dollars!

Final numbers for 2001 show 4.4 million visitors

Grand Canyon National Park experienced its lowest visitation in 10 years, according to the final 2001 numbers released last week by the park's Fee Management and Statistics Office. Total visitation for the park totaled 4,439,796, a decrease of 7.8 percent from 2000. The 4-4 Million was the lowest since 3.9 million visited in 1991.

The park's recreation visits came in at 4.1 million, and 8-percent decrease from the previous year.

Visitation throught the popular South Entrance Station was down 10 percent for the year. The vehicle count throught that station came in at 1.08 million, a 7-percent decrease. The total numbers throught all methods at the South Entrance totaled just above 3 million visitors.

Visitors taking a tour bus into the park declined DRAMATICALLY. The 2001 bus totals came in at 640,778, a 24-percent decrease from 2000. Those numbers were heavily affected after the terrrosim attacks of Sept. 11 when international travel took a BIG hit.

Other areas of the park also showed decrease, except for specific spots such as Lees Ferry and Grand Wash which are whitewater rafting staging areas.

Through thre East Entrance, numbers declined 16 percent, with that percentage staying consistent with both private cars and bus passengers. On the North Rim, visitation was down 6 percent. Bus passengers coming throught that entrance declined 19 percent.

2004 Update

Visitation shows modest increase   

Visitation picks up in 2003, but nowhere near pre-Sept. 11, 2001 levels was announced in today's Grand Canyon News.  General visitation in all of America's National Parks have dropped from 12% to 60% depending on the area of the country.   Grand Canyon National Park's visitor attendance down approximately 4%. 

2005-06 Update

G. Canyon underfunded, backers say


Sun Staff Reporter


]Despite Grand Canyon entrance fees that are set to rise $5 per car next year, some are saying the agency charged with protecting the park for future generations will still be millions of dollars short of what it needs to do the job right.

Employee housing is "abysmal," the park office that conducts scientific surveys is being "gutted" and archaeological sites that should get protection are being ignored as a result of perpetual budget shortfalls, say park supporters.

Scientists who have left in recent years haven't been replaced, leaving one Park Service wildlife biologist to monitor the threatened and endangered creatures living within the park's 1.3 million acres.

And the Grand Canyon, certainly known for its geology, has no park geologist and hasn't in recent memory, Grand Canyon spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge confirmed, though there are some employees who've studied geology.

She did not know about science openings or proposed budget cuts, she said. Oltrogge declined to comment on whether the park's budget is adequate.

The park's previous top administrator, however, said it's a case of constantly doing more with less.

"The crisis is very real, and unfortunately I think the American people equate the fact that their restrooms are clean and that the roads don't have potholes in them to mean that everything's OK at the park, and that's not the case," former Grand Canyon superintendent Ron Arnberger said.

U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Flagstaff, along with congressmen Mark Souder of Indiana and Michael Turner of Ohio, will meet in Flagstaff today to discuss funding in the nation's parks.

Souder has proposed increasing the National Park Service budget by 15 percent per year. This year's federal budget cuts National Park funding by 3 percent.

When Arnberger managed the park, from 1994 to 2000, he killed a proposed study on how to manage the Colorado River because of lack of funds. He's now affiliated with the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees and has testified before Congress about shortfalls in national parks.

"While I was there, I must say the budgets were extremely tight and I had to make many, many tough choices," Arnberger said.

"If anything, the situation has not improved. If anything, it's gotten worse."

The park added employee housing during his tenure, but Arnberger estimated it was hundred of units less than what was needed.

"You still have people living in old, moth-eaten trailers that should've been salvaged and thrown away years ago," Arnberger said.

Grand Canyon operating budgets appropriated by Congress have ranged from $14 million to $19 million annually over the past 10 years.

The Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Grand Canyon Trust and Coalition of National Park Service Retirees all complain of underfunding in the nation's parks, creating a backlog in maintenance that is estimated at up to $6.5 billion, with a perpetual deficit for day-to-day expenses.

The deficit can only worsen with rising health care, gasoline and hurricane recovery costs, predicted Blake Selzer, of the National Parks Conservation Association.

"Parks like Grand Canyon, as well as the 387 other parks across the country, have had to absorb a lot of costs over past years," he said.

The Grand Canyon receives twice as many visitors as some of the other "crown jewels" like Yellowstone and Yosemite, but not more funding, they say.

"The science part of the Grand Canyon, which is the heart of the Grand Canyon, is being gradually gutted," said Jim McCarthy, vice chair of the Arizona chapter of the Sierra Club. "Those are the people that protect the resources of the park and those are some of the most important people at the park."

Northern Arizona University has a Web site that lists unfunded projects at each national park, hoping to link a researcher with a project.

Grand Canyon is listed as having 67 unfunded research projects, ranging from surveys for Mexican spotted owl nesting sites to mountain lion and mushroom studies, according to the site. Glen Canyon has 49 such projects listed. Walnut Canyon has six.

The Grand Canyon is already operating on two-thirds of the budget it needs and every department has been asked to cut budgets by 10 percent per year for each of the next four years, according to sources who have seen Park Service memos and a park business plan that has yet to be released.

But fees at the Grand Canyon are actually scheduled to increase next year, meaning the average driver would pay $25 to get in, as opposed to the current $20.

Those fees must, by law, go to projects for visitors or improvements, such as new restrooms, walkways, roads, potable water, campgrounds, fencing and transportation.

In recent years, an emergency services building has been constructed, Grandview Trail has been repaired and a landfill has been closed with money from entrance fees, among other projects, Oltrogge said.

Next year, when the entrance fee is raised, about $10 of every fee will be used to design a mass transit plan and the required environmental studies. Currently, about $3 of every fee goes for that purpose.


Arizona Daily Sun

Better management needed for Canyon


To the editor:

While I agree that more funds are needed to run Grand Canyon National Park, the primary cause of problems is not a lack of funds, but mismanagement of available funds. There is no clear way for NPS to prioritize work projects, and there is a single minded obsession with a new, unnecessary and costly transportation system. Projects go uncompleted due to incompetence, as demonstrated through contracting problems as one example. There is currently sufficient parking and hauling capacity available if the National Park Service chose to utilize it effectively. NPS would rather create a transportation (parking) problem in hopes of justifying a new plan which is both unrealistic and unnecessary. NPS continues to ask outside agencies to provide land and infrastructure, rather than utilizing park lands which they control. Including these unreasonable requests: NPS virtually guarantees no plan will ever be approved, which may be their goal. The planning process can go on indefinitely with no expectation of results. What is needed is leadership. While Superintendent Alston is an honorable man, the bureaucratic mess he inherited from his predecessors does not allow him to fix or redirect activities mid-process. What we have is a system designed to fail with no interest in fixing it either from within NPS or Congress. More money is not the answer, sound practices are. Congress would do everyone a favor by refusing to continue to fund unreasonable projects, and deny the fee increases being requested.


Grand Canyon

November 7, 2005

The NPS transportation policies at Grand Canyon are forcing commercial tour operators to discriminate against the physically challenged public. I believe this is against public policy and the ADA.

We have many physically challenged guests wishing to make use of the private guided tour service. These guests often have a Golden Access Pass. It is my understanding that this pass does not extend privileges to the commercial operator. We cannot take the guests to Hermit Rest or Yaki Point in our 15 passenger van. Now that Yavapai Point is closed to commercial we are restricted to the four remaining parking areas to which commercial operators are granted access. These areas are restricted to commercial use and specifically restricted to our small 15 passenger van. These are important viewpoints in any cursory understanding of this World Heritage Site. How can you restrict access to our public lands?

With regard to tthe "On-Call Paratransit Service", our guests often do not provide us with the knowledge that they have a physical challenge. We cannot ask if they have a physical challenge, that is discrimination, as you know. We cannot provide 24 hour notice to get the mobility service our guest require. Furthermore, I understand that the on-call service is not available to those who are part of a guided tour. Again this is discrimination, contrary to public policy and specifically forbidden by the ADA.

Further there is great confusion concerning parking privileges for small commercial vans at Bright Angel Trailhead. We have not received any official communication from the new Concessions Manager. (Please forward this missive to her office) Are commercial tour operations (other than Xanterra) going to be a thing of the past? This is the trend we are experiencing. The bottleneck at the Bright Angel commercial parking area is breaking down good will between the competing interests of the large tour bus companies and the independents with small vans. I foresee fisticuffs among drivers in 2006.

The NPS bottom line is enhanced when you get the large tour busses to visit for an hour or so at two commercial parking areas. When they leave it makes room for more entry fees at the gate. Our guests prefer the personal service of the independent tour guide and we are in the park for five hours. We pay our fair share of entrance fees and we utilize the Xanterra restaurants and gift shops ant the GCA bookstores. NPS receives remuneration from all of these. Do you really want to lose our business?

I understand that the Grand Canyon National Park is comprised of public lands. You cannot restrict public access. Your transportation policy is discriminatory and must be changed.

Thank you for addressing the above concerns.

margaret hodgkins

marv mason


Marvelous Marv's Grand Canyon Tours

August 06

National Park Services Announces Availability of Preliminary Alternatives
for South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan and Environmental Assessment

Grand Canyon, Ariz. – Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Joseph
Alston today announced the availability of preliminary alternatives for the
Grand Canyon South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan and Environmental
Assessment (EA).

The National Park Service (NPS) as the lead agency and the US Forest
Service, Kaibab Forest, as a cooperating agency are required to comply with
the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), which calls for
federal agencies to consider environmental issues as part of their decision
making process.  NEPA encourages federal agencies to involve interested
parties through a process referred to as scoping.  Scoping allows
interested parties an opportunity to make suggestions early in the process.

As part of this process, the NPS conducted public scoping from March
through April 2006, which included four public open house meetings in Las
Vegas, Nevada, and in Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Tusayan, Ariz.  Preliminary
“action” alternatives were developed based on the purpose and need for the
action, plan objectives, and planning framework and from input from the
public scoping effort as well as from data collected on visitor use.

Each alternative is illustrated and described in a newsletter titled Grand
Canyon South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan/EA (Newsletter) which address
multiple transportation components including options for providing expanded
visitor parking, reduced waiting times and shorter traffic back-ups at the
South Entrance Station,


improved management of passengers and tour bus
traffic, enhanced shuttle bus service and visitor safety.

The alternatives include 1) Tusayan-Centered Alternative, that would
concentrate visitor facilities near the gateway community of Tusayan to
minimize development in the park, maximize the reduction of vehicular
traffic entering the park, and afford visitors the opportunity to by-pass
any congestion at the entrance station by parking in Tusayan and riding a
shuttle into the park. 2) Park-Centered Alternative that would concentrate
visitor facilities in the park near the visitor center at Canyon View
Information Plaza (CVIP), to provide simple visitor wayfinding and parking
management.  Under this alternative, most visitors would go to CVIP as the
first step of their visit; and 3) Mixed Alternative, which would provide a
balance of development in the park and adjacent to Tusayan.  This
alternative should provide sufficient parking in the park near CVIP to meet
visitor needs except during the peak summer visitation season and on
certain busy weekends, when parking in Tusayan would be used.  Under this
alternative, shuttle service to Tusayan would need to be provided only
during the peak season and other busy days. The alternatives will be
evaluated in the EA along with a “no-action” alternative.

The NPS is soliciting comments regarding the preliminary alternatives at
this stage, in order to ensure they meet project objectives and represent a
reasonable range of alternatives for detailed analysis in the EA.
Additional detail and refinements will be determined in the EA process.

A copy of the Newsletter, background information and a summary of public
comments received during the public scoping process and NPS responses will
be posted on the National Park Service Planning, Environment and Public
Comment (PEPC) website at

A 30-day public comment period begins today, August 14.  Comments can be
submitted at the PEPC website, or in writing to:
                        Grand Canyon National Park
                 Attn:  Office of Planning and Compliance
                               P.O. Box 129
                          Grand Canyon, AZ  86023

Comments must be received no later than September 13, 2006.  The NPS
expects to release an Environmental Assessment for the Grand Canyon South
Rim Visitor Transportation Plan in spring 2007.

For additional information on the South Rim Transportation Plan and EA,
please contact Vicky Stinson, Project Manager, at (928) 774-3026.

Big changes coming to YOUR National Park with more corporate takeovers and monopolies! This just in....

Railway lands on Xanterra
Letter of intent to buy accepted by Railway

By Russ Walton
Williams-Grand Canyon News Reporter

Final movements on the high-profile sale of the Grand Canyon Railway may now be under way.

The company responsible for hospitality operations at the Grand Canyon National Park ‹ Xanterra Parks and Resorts ‹ was one of the final few in running for the purchase of the tourism attraction. On Friday, the GCR issued an official press release stating that Xanterra had risen to the top and that the GCR had indeed accepted Xanterra's letter of intent to purchase the operation and most of its holdings.

Railway owners Max and Thelma Biegert recently began a searching for buyers after holding the business for nearly 20 years. More than 200 potential buyers had been contacted with 25 percent entering the sales process.

"When Max decided to sell it, obviously Xanterra was the first to come to my mind simply because of the fact that they're established there on the south rim and we already do a considerable amount of business with them. It just seemed like such a natural," said GCR President Dave Chambers.

Aside from the Grand Canyon's South Rim, Xanterra Parks and Resorts ‹ based out of Denver, Colo. ‹ currently operates concessions in Yellowstone, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Crater Lake, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and Death Valley and Petrified Forest National Parks. It also operates resorts in California and New York, and handles concessions in eight Ohio State Parks.

The Fred Harvey Company was the first to provide hospitality services at the Canyon and Xanterra purchased that company in 1968.

The Grand Canyon Railway was built in 1901 and provided rail service until 1968. The operation was dormant for nearly 20 years until the Biegerts restored the historic route with their own funding and reinstated train service in the fall of 1989 ‹ only a few years after the Williams portion of Route 66 had been bypassed by Interstate-40. Since then, nearly 2.5 million people have traveled aboard the Railway (222,000 in 2005 alone).

"Our purchase of the Grand Canyon Railway is a logical progression as both companies are already in the business of helping to create unforgettable experiences for visitors to the Grand Canyon," said Xanterra Parks & Resorts President Andrew N. Todd in the release.

The sale includes the train, its hotel/resort in Williams, 162 acres along the tracks up to the maintenance yard, and a 160-acre area just outside the Grand Canyon National Park called "Imbleau" or "Apex."

What is not included is the 488-acre Gonzales Ranch parcel in Williams. Chambers said that property is also for sale and that the Biegerts are considering offers now.

One of the most obvious concerns about the pending sale is how the railway will be run under its new ownership, what plans there are for expansion, and if anything will change.

Unfortunately, until the purchase has been solidified, Xanterra isn't talking.

"At this stage of the venture, we think it's premature to talk about future plans while we're still in the due diligence stage, offered Xanterra Vice President of Sales and Marketing Judy Lages. "So we are going to limit our response at this time just to what the news release says."

Chambers and other officials at the GCR, however, are comfortable with speculating that the new ownership will be a smooth one. The press release said that one of the items strengthening Xanterra's bid was their intention of retaining the current GCR employee base.

"Xanterra has indicated that the organization will stay intact," Chambers said. "As our organization exists, we will continue to be involved with the community, just like we are now."

As far as its employees ‹ which number nearly 500 ‹ Chambers said the mood was positive, especially since the mystery of who the most likely buyers would be has been revealed.

Now that the GCR has the letter of intent from Xanterra, Chambers estimates that a new level of due diligence will occur over the next 30-45 days. During that time, a final sales agreement will be negotiated. Once the final documents are signed, the deal gets handed over to the National Parks Service for its stamp of approval.

Age of Grand Canyon       2.1.07

Recently there have been several media and internet reports concerning the National Park Service’s interpretation of the formation of the Grand Canyon.

The National Park Service uses the latest National Academy of Sciences explanation for the geologic formation of the Grand Canyon. Our guidance to the field is contained in the NPS Management Policies 2006 and NPS Director’s Order # 6 and requires that the interpretive and educational treatment used to explain the natural processes and history of the Earth must be based on the best scientific evidence available, as found in scholarly sources that have stood the test of scientific peer review and criticism. Our commitment to scientific accuracy is also driven by Director’s Order #11B, which requires us to ensure the objectivity of the information we disseminate.

Therefore, our interpretive talks, way-side exhibits, visitor center films, etc use the following explanation for the age of the geologic features at Grand Canyon. If asked the age of the Grand Canyon, our rangers use the following answer.

The principal consensus among geologists is that the Colorado River basin has developed in the past 40 million years and that the Grand Canyon itself is probably less than five to six million years old. The result of all this erosion is one of the most complete geologic columns on the planet.

The major geologic exposures in Grand Canyon range in age from the 1.7 billion year old Vishnu Schist at the bottom of the Inner Gorge to the 270 million year old Kaibab Limestone on the Rim.

So, why are there news reports that differ from this explanation? Since 2003 the park bookstore has been selling a book that gives a Creationist view of the formation of the Grand Canyon, claiming that the canyon is less than six thousand years old. This book is sold in the inspirational section of the bookstore. In this section there are photographic texts, poetry books, and Native American books (that also give an alternative view of the canyon’s origin).

The park’s bookstore contains scores of texts that give the NPS geologic view of the formation of the canyon.

We do not use the Creationist text in our teaching nor do we endorse its content. However, neither do we censor alternative beliefs. Much like your local public library, you will find many alternative beliefs, but not all of these beliefs are used in the school classroom.

It is not our role to tell people what to believe. We recognize that alternative views exist, but we teach the scientific explanation for the formation of the Grand Canyon.

I hope this explanation helps.

David Barna

Chief of Public Affairs

National Park Service

Washington, DC

Registered Professional Geologist (AIPG #6528)

Licensed Geologist (North Carolina #129)


National News

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Grand Canyon Skywalk opens deep divide

Arizona's Hualapai Tribe hopes to draw more visitors with a controversial structure that will jut over the crevasse.
By Julie Cart, Times Staff Writer
February 11, 2007



GRAND CANYON WEST, ARIZ. — Perched over the Grand Canyon close to a mile above the Colorado River, a massive, multimillion-dollar glass walkway will soon open for business as the centerpiece of a struggling Indian tribe's plan to lure tourists to its remote reservation.

An engineering marvel or a colossal eyesore, depending on who is describing it, the horseshoe-shaped glass walkway will jut out 70 feet beyond the canyon's edge on the Hualapai Indian Reservation just west of Grand Canyon Village. Buttressed by 1 million pounds of steel and supporting 90 tons of tempered glass, the see-through deck will give visitors a breathtaking view of the canyon.

When the cantilevered structure opens to the public next month, it will be the most conspicuous commercial edifice in the canyon. And, if the tribe's plans come to fruition, the Skywalk will be the catalyst for a 9,000-acre development, known as Grand Canyon West, that will open up a long-inaccessible 100-mile stretch of countryside along the canyon's South Rim. The cost of the Skywalk alone will exceed $40 million, tribal officials say.

"Skywalk is the 'wow' that will draw people," said Steve Beattie, the chief financial officer for Grand Canyon Resort Corp., the tribe's business arm. Construction on an attached 6,000-square-foot visitors center and restaurant is to begin after the walkway opens. The Skywalk will charge an admission fee of $25, Beattie said, adding that some of the financing will come from a private-sector partner.

Tribal officials say the development, which may eventually include hotels, restaurants and a golf course, is the best way to address the social ills of a small reservation, where the 2,000 residents struggle with a 50% unemployment rate and widespread alcoholism and poverty.

But off the reservation, many people regard the development and especially the Skywalk as tantamount to defacing a national treasure.

"It's the equivalent of an upscale carnival ride," said Robert Arnberger, a former superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park who was born near the canyon's South Rim. "Why would they desecrate this place with this?"

"I've never been able to resolve the apparent conflict between the tribe's oft-stated claim that there is no better caregiver and steward of the Grand Canyon than the tribe, and their approach to the land — which is based on heavy use and economics," he said.

"They say the Grand Canyon is theirs to do with however they please. Under law, it's hard to argue that proposition. But obviously the lure of dollars for the tribal treasury is greater than the obligation to manage the Grand Canyon for its cultural and historic values."

Other critics say the Skywalk and related development will only add to the commercialization that has detracted from the experience of nature in the national park.

"What the Grand Canyon needs most is a place for quiet contemplation and recreation," said Kieran Suckling, policy director for the Center for Biological Diversity, an Arizona-based environmental group. "The Skywalk is part of a process that is turning the canyon into a tacky commercial playground."

Not so, say tribal leaders.

"You look at the park side, they have 4.5 million people a year — it's Disneyland in itself," said Sheri YellowHawk, a former member of the Hualapai tribal council and chief executive of the tribe's business entity. "They have too many cars and can't resolve their transportation issues. We're looking at their problems and trying to resolve them up front. We've gone through 2 1/2 years of going back and forth with cultural assessment and biological assessments and community input. We have to find a means to self-sustain ourselves. The money is dwindling."

The Hualapai have worked for years to attract more tourists to their 1-million-acre reservation. About 200,000 people visit the reservation each year. The tribe levies a charge for weddings on the canyon rim and other events, including a motorcycle stunt ride in which daredevil Robbie Knievel jumped a side canyon. But after a disappointing foray into casino gambling, the tribe decided three years ago to launch a one-of-a-kind development at the rim of the Grand Canyon.

The tribe expects the Skywalk to boost tourism at a more modest development already in place: a smattering of sites 120 miles east of Las Vegas offering experiences that can't be found at the park, including an Old West Main Street and cowboy show, an Indian village, horseback riding, wagon rides and Humvee tours.

In addition, the Hualapai operate airplane and helicopter tours that fly visitors into the canyon on low-level routes, which are forbidden at the national park. After landing beside the river, visitors can embark on guided pontoon boat and raft rides — day tours not offered in the park. The tribe's master plan calls for the construction of a cable car to ferry visitors from the canyon rim to the river.

There, the tribe is also seeking to expand tourism. The Grand Canyon National Park's Colorado River management plan, finalized in December, allows the tribe to take 600 passengers on motorized pontoon boats each day, far fewer than the 1,800 daily allotment the Hualapai requested.

Beattie of Grand Canyon Resort Corp. said the boating restrictions would prevent the tribe from expanding river operations, now the tribe's most popular tourist attraction. Although it flows through the reservation, the river is under federal control.

Some members of the tribe are uncomfortable with the development. Joe Powskey, a Hualapai guide who takes tourists through a newly built Indian village adjacent to the Skywalk construction site, said that although growth was necessary to give the tribe an economic base, tribal leaders needed to be careful not to overdo it.

"Our priority is not to overdevelop," Powskey said. "We want to kind of keep it pristine here."

Powskey said he was aggrieved to see visitors step down from buses and toss cigarette butts around the rim. "We ask people not to smoke. They do. We tell them not to throw cigarettes around; the bones of our ancestors are buried here."

Others in the tribe have been critical of what they say is the development's lack of sustainability, pointing out that water used here is trucked in over miles of unpaved, rutted roads, and that there is no sewer, trash, telephone or electrical service. The airport, which is expanding, operates on diesel generators. The park, in contrast, has a busy complex of hotels, shops and restaurants, most clustered on the South Rim of the Canyon, several miles upstream from the reservation. The park does not draw water from the river, but from an aging pipeline.

Tribal officials admit it will be difficult to operate a full-service resort without upgrading infrastructure and finding a local source of water. Hualapai officials said last week that they were considering taking water from the Colorado River.

Pumping water up nearly a vertical mile from the river to the rim of the canyon could be fraught with financial and legal challenges. Joseph Feller, who teaches water law at Arizona State University, says no tribe has ever taken water from the Colorado without first negotiating with the federal government.

The tribe's YellowHawk said: "We're looking at pumping water out of the river; that may be our best bet." She added that the tribe was attempting to negotiate with the Department of the Interior. Attorneys with the department solicitor's office confirmed that the tribe had made initial overtures regarding water rights on the Colorado.

Feller said there was no doubt the Hualapai had long-standing rights to water from the Colorado, but how much they may take has not been determined.

"Usually, you end up with a legal settlement, in which the tribe accepts less water than it wants in return for federal financial assistance to put the rights to use," he said.

But once the infrastructure issues are resolved, "there's no end to investors who want to be a part of this," Beattie said. "Who doesn't want to be part of the Grand Canyon?"





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