Controversial Grand Canyon Gondola Grounded for a Year
A tourist attraction proposed for the Navajo side of the Grand Canyon has been delayed by a year, because the controversial plan didn’t make it on the Navajo Nation Council’s summer legislative agenda.
A Phoenix-based development group, the Confluence Partners, fronted the plan in 2012 to build Grand Canyon Escalade, which would occupy 420 acres near the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers, just east of Grand Canyon National Park. The development’s main draw would be the “Escalade” Gondola Tramway, carrying tourists to the Canyon floor. Once there, visitors could walk along an 1,100-foot elevated riverwalk, eat at a restaurant, or visit an amphitheater and terraced grass seating area overlooking the Colorado River. The development would also include a Navajo cultural center and retail and art galleries.
Lamar Whitmer, of Confluence Partners, said all the necessary approvals are in place, and the legislation was delivered to the Navajo Nation three months ago. As a next step, it would have been assigned a legislation number by the Navajo Nation Speaker’s office, but Jared Touchin, spokesman for the office, said the legislation never arrived; he suspects there were legal issues that remain to be resolved. The deadline for consideration in the legislative Summer Session was Tuesday, July 8.
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On June 13, at the NABI meeting in Window Rock, our governing body of Council delegates could not start the session on time at 10 a.m. due to a lack of a quorum. This means that less than 13 were on time.
Close to two hours later three delegates arrived, including two from Western Navajo, and the meeting began. I am late to school, because our leaders practice the same thing. Just remember, leaders are role models, especially for the young people.
The speaker pro tem, while waiting for a quorum, allowed the families affected by the Escalade project to present. Two Navajo ladies who grew up in Bodaway did a courageous and beautiful presentation. The women talked about what life is today: the threat of land loss, broken relationships between the people (Ke’), the uncertainty of what will happen in 50 years, and strangers driving around and visiting families.
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A schism over a chasm
Park officials warn against two projects planned near Grand Canyon. One would alter its views, another would tap the area’s precious water.
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK — At the rim of the Grand Canyon, busloads of Chinese tourists jostled on a recent day with twenty-something backpackers and an Amish family with rambunctious boys in suspenders and straw hats, all eager for a prime viewing spot.
They gazed out on a dizzying sight of receding canyons and sheer rock walls, with the Colorado River cutting though the canyon floor a mile down.
Generations of park managers have tried to preserve that natural vista, but officials here say a proposed development would alter the view.
Looking eastward from the canyon’s popular South Rim, visitors could soon see a hive of construction as workers build restaurants, hotels and shops on a distant mesa on the Navajo Indian reservation.
The developers also plan a gondola ride from those attractions to whisk tourists to the canyon floor, where they would stroll along an elevated riverside walkway to a restaurant at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers.
That project and a second, unrelated development proposed for just south of the canyon have set off alarms at the National Park Service, which sees them as the most serious threat the park has faced in its 95-year history.
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