Could this be the end of the Grand Canyon?

Gondolas, shops, and hotels pose monumental threat

The-Grand-Canyon-Is-Doomed

The National Park Service has called new developments proposed for the Grand Canyon the “most serious threat the park has faced in its 95-year history.

The canyon, called one of the seven natural wonders of the world, attracts more than 5 million visitors annually. Confluence Partners, the company behind the proposal, estimates the development could draw as many as 3 million visitors.

A mesa visible from the South Rim, which belongs to the Navajo Indian Reservation, could soon become a construction site as restaurants, hotels, and shops are erected in an attempt to spur local tourism, according to the Los Angeles Times. The same developers are also planning to install a gondola that will transport visitors from the rim to the canyon floor, currently only accessible by foot or mule.

R. Lamar Whitmer, one of the developers, justified the plans by saying that the NPS offers most visitors only a “drive-by wilderness experience.” He claims that the Grand Canyon Escalade gondola would give less-mobile individuals a chance to see more of this 2 billion-year-old geological wonder.

“The average person can’t ride a mule to the bottom of the canyon,” Whitmer said. “We want them to feel the canyon from the bottom.”

The developers are also planning to add 2,200 homes and 3 million square feet of commercial space just south of the canyon. NPS worries those new developments will jeopardize some of the park’s most iconic vistas and push already-strained resources to the brink.

“They are serious threats to the future of the park,” said park superintendent Dave Uberuaga. “When you have that size and scope of potential development that close to the park, it will impact our visitor experience.”

The next step for the Grand Canyon Escalade is a vote by the Navajo tribal government. If it gives the green light, US government officials have said they will provide their official response. A legal dispute could be in the offing, based on where federal jurisdiction around the Colorado ends and Navajo land begins.

The developers argue that they can build anywhere above the river’s high water mark, while the government asserts that they block development up to a quarter mile from either bank.

So whether a trip to the canyon floor is a day’s hike or a few minutes’ ride away could end up decided the way most controversial land-use disputes are these days – by a judge.

Source | OutsideOnline