GCPBA RiverNews 9/8/14 - Arizona Republic Editorial about the Grand Canyon Escalade Project
The following is an excellent brief of the cultural impact to the Grand Canyon by the Grand Canyon Escalade project at the confluence of the Colorado and the Little Colorado rivers.
Think Hard Before You Build That Grand Canyon Resort
by the Arizona Republic Editorial Board, 9/5/14
Our view: This project would exact a cultural price, regardless of whether the promised jobs and revenue materialize.
It's not just any canyon.
Arizona's Grand Canyon is one of the Wonders of the World. It has breathtaking aesthetic, spiritual, recreational and scientific significance.
That means the proposal to build a resort with an elaborate cable-gondola system has to be seen in the larger context. It is about much, much more than economic development on the Navajo Reservation.
It is about the best interests of a national treasure.
Would a $150 million development above the confluence of the Colorado and the Little Colorado rivers have a negative impact on Grand Canyon National Park?
The project should not move ahead if the answer is anything short of "absolutely not."
The Canyon experience should not be compromised for the sake of development.
That's a harsh statement — especially considering the high unemployment and poverty rates on the Navajo Reservation. The need for jobs there is acute.
But this proposal is controversial even among members of the Navajo Nation. Some feel it would give the tribe more control over sacred areas, in addition to providing needed jobs. Others feel it would be sacrilegious to develop in this place. There are also concerns about the impact on the fragile ecosystem.
The Hopi Nation, to which this is also sacred ground, has expressed concerns.
Members of both the Hopi and Navajo nations offer strong arguments on both sides of what has become a controversial proposal. Those discussions need to continue because this project would exact a cultural price regardless of whether promised jobs and economic benefits materialized.
But those conversations have to been seen as a sidebar to a much larger decision.
In a very real sense, the Grand Canyon represents a sacred place for all of Arizona — and much of the rest of the world. People come from all over to see a place for which even the most ambitious adjectives are utterly insufficient.
The proposed location for what is being called the Grand Canyon Escalade is 10 miles northeast of the popular Watchtower on the South Rim. The National Park Service says the development could mar the views of the Canyon.
The environmental impacts also need to be determined.
What's more, there is a dispute over who owns land-use rights to the site. A 1993 determination from the Interior Department gives the Park Service authority over the area that would be used by the cable-car system. The Navajo Nation has long disagreed with ruling, but the issue has never gone to court.
Developer R. Lamar Whitmer cites another law and decision that he says gives the land-use rights to the Navajos. There will be plenty of billable lawyers' hours if this proposal moves ahead.
But the basic issue remains the Canyon itself. This is not just any piece of real estate. In fact, if it weren't for the proximity of the Canyon, there would be no development to discuss.
So, the Canyon has to be the focus. It is too great a treasure to be exploited for commercial gain.
A four part series about the project can be read here, at these links:
Part 1, "Grand Canyon cable car project ignites controversy over sacred land, development" : http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2014/07/17/grand-canyon-gondola/12709321/
Part 2, "Navajo Nation at odds over Escalade project" :http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2014/09/04/grand-canyon-escalade-navajo-nation-sacred-land/12996967/
Part 3, "Dispute over land rights could sink Grand Canyon Escalade project": http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2014/09/04/grand-canyon-confluence-land-rights/12992581/
Part 4, "Will Grand Canyon Escalade Project bring jobs to Navajo Nation?": http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2014/09/04/grand-canyon-project-navajo-nation-jobs/13163443/