The petition turnout to save the Grand Canyon Eastern Rim grew in record numbers, Navajo officials said Thursday.
One Navajo official said the turnout was “as big as the national park itself.”
Officials with the Navajo Nation Office of Legislative Services counted more than 60,333 comments in the form of online petitions, letters and e-mail opposing the Escalade bill while 131 people favored the project over two weeks.
Bill number 0293-16 seeks $65 million of the nation for infrastructure, wants the council to approve a 420-acre land withdrawal and sign off on a master agreement with Confluence Partners LLCto develop Grand Canyon Escalade.
The partners want to create a tourist destination consisting of a hotel, restaurant, a museum, a sewer plant and a gondola, which takes visitors from the eastern rim to the floor of the canyon to trek on a river walk.
“It was the sheer numbers,” that challenged four workers charged with counting, said Mary Nez, legislative secretary. “This is a record number of people who commented on a council bill.”
The more 60,330 comments are the combined total of the five-day comments and a second batch, which consist of the missing online comments collected by the Save the Confluence website, officials said.
The comments will be attached to the bill, which is expected to have its first hearing before the council’s Law and Order Committee at 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 26 in Monument Valley. Before it reaches the Navajo Nation Council, other committees such as Resources and Development, Budget and Finance and Naa’bik’iyati’ must host hearings, too.
Unknown is how the numbers will influence the 24-member council.
Fort Defiance Councilman Ben Bennett introduced the bill Aug. 29. Bennett also represents Sawmill, Crystal, Red Lake and Sawmill chapters.
Bennett could not be reached for a comment.
He, however, is not swayed because he told Gallup Independent any proposed development on the nation must be heard by the committees and debated by the council. He also reportedly told a Bodaway resident the Navajo economy needs a boost during the Navajo Nation Fair.