Grand Canyon Development Threats Are Real
Is the Grand Canyon doomed?
Hype or not, two very real development projects are threatening to impact the canyon in a big way. Anyone who has intimately experienced the sacred places within its walls, or hopes to someday, should be very concerned.
As Kevin Fedarko writes in a powerful op-ed that ran in the New York Times this week, “On the South Rim plateau, less than two miles from the park’s entrance, the gateway community of Tusayan, a town just a few blocks long, has approved plans to construct 2,200 homes and three million square feet of commercial space that will include shops and hotels, a spa and a dude ranch.”
While plans to build a community outside of the park may not raise red flags for some, it’s those like Fedarko who are deeply familiar with the canyon, who know what the real cost of that development would be.
“Among its many demands, the development requires water, and tapping new wells would deplete the aquifer that drives many of the springs deep inside the canyon — delicate oases with names like Elves Chasm and Mystic Spring. These pockets of life, tucked amid a searing expanse of bare rock, are among the park’s most exquisite gems,” writes Fedarko.
Equally as concerned and familiar with the canyon’s delicate environment, O.A.R.S. Founder George Wendt adds this, “We share the feeling of the National Park System that there is not enough water in the Tusayan area to support further development without tapping into deep wells that almost certainly would divert water from the limited number of natural springs that feed the ecosystem of the Colorado River and its surrounding side canyons.”
As opposition groups work to battle the massive, already approved development plans for Tusayan, a separate group of developers has proposed a project that many see as a bigger threat. That looming project is the “Grand Canyon Escalade”—a 1.4-mile tramway that, if constructed, would deliver thousands of visitors each day into the heart of the canyon.
“The Escalade project, with its potential gondola down to the point near the confluence of the Colorado River and the Little Colorado, would irrevocably mar the beauty and wilderness characteristics of the Grand Canyon,” says Wendt.
According to Fedarko, “The cable system would take more than 4,000 visitors a day in eight-person gondolas to a spot on the floor of the canyon known as the Confluence, where the turquoise waters of the Little Colorado River merge with the emerald green current of the Colorado.” But that’s not all. The tramway project would also come with an elevated walkway, restaurant and an amphitheater.
If you’re thinking that these projects could never happen…well, have you heard the story about Glen Canyon? We lost one of the greatest river canyons in the world to development once before. We can’t afford to do it again.
Fedarko leaves us with this: “If we cannot muster the resources and the resolve to preserve this, perhaps our greatest natural treasure, what, if anything, are we willing to protect?”
Take Action! If you’re as concerned about these proposed developments as we are, please take a minute to sign the Grand Canyon Trust’s online petition to voice your opposition.
Read Kevin Fedarko’s full op-ed here: “A Cathedral Under Siege.”