Grand Canyon: A Cathedral Under Seige


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Mark Force

Trad climber
Cave Creek, AZ
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 10, 2014 - 10:16am PT
From the New York Times this morning covering two huge threats to the integrity of the Grand Canyon.

Written by Kevin Fedarko who also wrote The Emerald Mile about the one day dory trip through the whole of the Grand Canyon while it was in flood in 1983.

Trad climber
Aug 10, 2014 - 04:09pm PT
Bump!! Thanks for this important piece of news, Mark.
steve shea

Aug 10, 2014 - 04:19pm PT
I remember Edward Abbey's comment about similar project, (access/tram). If they are too old, they had their chance(to hike in an out); if they are too young they will get their chance. Screw that sort of access in the parks.

If the Navajo tribe is truly involved, then bullshit on all the tribal land trespass under the name of native religion, ie: off limit areas. If the Grand Canyon is not a religious experience for them, then what is.

Social climber
Falls Church, VA
Aug 10, 2014 - 05:36pm PT
i definitely oppose the development, but i'll play devil's advocate on the tramway

first, what's the difference between a tramway into the canyon and a paved road into j-tree or yosemite, etc.? why is the canyon so sacred? i say, oppose the tram when you're ready to limit access to every park to trails only

second, why are you so racist? why do you hate native americans so much? personally, i love the irony of native americans "desecrating" an american park by taking full advantage of the treaties that you libs so vehemently decry as unjust...remember, we "stole" the land from them, forced them onto land we deemed useless or without value, and then stood by and watched their societies destroyed by poverty and would think you would celebrate their sticking it to the evil white man...instead, you prefer the inner cities remain in blight with double digit unemployment for african americans rather than have walmart build a store and offer stable employment for which they receive thousands of applications for only a hundred jobs

Social climber
Aug 10, 2014 - 10:04pm PT
The tramway proposal has a thread already, but thanks for the heads up about the new article in the NYT:

bookworm, you have it backward. The article states, correctly, that the tramway proposal is being driven by developers from Scottsdale. These are anglo developers with deep pockets, enough to buy a few token Navajo supporters. The local Navajos, the ones who will be affected, are dead against the proposal. Another chapter in the long story of anglo greed and money corrupting and taking from Navajos, steamrolling over them.

Aug 10, 2014 - 10:24pm PT
Probably didn't read the article
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Aug 10, 2014 - 10:57pm PT
first, what's the difference between a tramway into the canyon and a paved road into j-tree or yosemite, etc.? why is the canyon so sacred? i say, oppose the tram when you're ready to limit access to every park to trails only

I agree that there is way too much development in Yosemite Valley and in the YNP, and that much of it should be removed. and I love the concept of "trails only" but a compromise solution would be to have no private cars allowed at all. certainly not during the "high season". But that would be opposed by the commercial interests.

steve shea

Aug 11, 2014 - 08:28am PT
Abbey's comment was about roads in a park but could be applied here. Nope! Not racist. But tired of the duplicity of some in the name of greed. As far as the lecture on native Americans, thanks but I live adjacent to the Shoshone/Arapaho Wind River Reservation, for the past 37 yrs. Also worked through the Rosebud Sioux Res. in Montana for 15 years.

At one point here, during the Nixon administration, the Feds discussed the viability of a tram to the Lower Saddle. Fortunately they came to their senses.
John Duffield

Mountain climber
New York
Aug 11, 2014 - 08:45am PT
I remember the first time I went there, in 1968. The First Landers, had ancient pickup trucks. The older boys, would be in the cab with Dad. The women and the younger children, would ride in the back. They hung out all over Tuba City. They had insane numbers of children.

My next pass through in 1996, things had changed. The Park, the First Landers, everything. Kids riding through the park in ATVs. Not sure it's all for the better, but I don't think the women ride in the back of a battered pickup anymore.
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Aug 11, 2014 - 09:10am PT
what's the difference between a tramway into the canyon and a paved road into j-tree or yosemite, etc

The road is already there, the tramway would cut across pristine wilderness. An unprecedented act into the heart of a very remote area.

I will concede however that the Navajo have the absolute right to do what they want with their land. Prime example is the GC Skywalk. The issue with the Escalade project is where is the rez/GCNP boundary. Apparently the legislation that created the boundary (1970s? I think) was not perfectly clear. NPS says the boundary is 1/4 mile from the river, tribe says boundary is the river. Nothing else matters

Ice climber
hartford, ct
Aug 11, 2014 - 09:17am PT
In my few forays into the bowels of the GC, it would seem to me it's been "under seige" from humanity for a long, long time...

And every time I climb back up to the rim, she sure seems in much better shape than I am.

Social climber
Aug 11, 2014 - 10:02am PT
And every time I climb back up to the rim, she sure seems in much better shape than I am.


Trad climber
greater Boss Angeles area
Aug 11, 2014 - 10:11am PT
You can't say we weren't asking for it.

Whatever development happens in the Grand Canyon will be a small price to pay for treating the Indians so shabbily for so long.

Rotten Government has its consequences.

Social climber
Enron by the Sea
Aug 11, 2014 - 10:36am PT
Not sure I agree, Chaz, but assuming I do show me how on earth the resident tribe members who most need help are going to get anything at all out of this? I'm not at all sold on the economic benefit to them, and I think the track record of similar developments (not to mention most casinos) shows there isn't one when you weigh in all results.

That point aside, I couldn't be more against a tramway there, for all the reasons better articulated by the article that started this thread. And despite my own cynicism on the whole ugly political deals that created the damn mess there in the first place, and left the door open for the developers proposing this, public opinion can stop it. An awareness campaign similar to the one launched during the political awakening/heyday of the Sierra Club in stopping dams in GC (if not Glen Canyon) would stop this. Very easy to say, I admit, but isn't it just a matter of raising the outrage level to a point where office-holders with the needed political leverage see the advantage of jumping on the bandwagon for votes, or suffering the consequences? It's been done before for GC, and it can be done again.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Aug 11, 2014 - 12:40pm PT
The difference between a road into Yosemite Valley and a tramway into the Grand Canyon centers on the history of the two National Parks. The idea that if we oppose one we should oppose the other has its foundation in a one-size-fits-all National Park policy.

Lincoln set aside Yosemite Valley 30 years before the establishment of National Parks for, among other reasons, the enjoyment and recreation of the public, not merely for its preservation. He, and those supporting his decision, feared that Yosemite would become an enclave reserved for the wealthy elite.

Grand Canyon developed differently. Its remoteness was part of its character. Building a tramway, or a road, into it would destroy its historical use in the same way that building a road into Pate Valley and Benson Lake would destroy the character and historical use of northern Yosemite National Park.

so, I strongly disagree with Ed's statement that Yosmeite Valley has too much development. The trend in Yosemite Valley has been to make it less and less friendly to ordinary working stiffs with families, and more an enclave of Eric Beck's two leisure classes -- those with money, and those with time. The current, adopted Plan still has not restored all of the campsites stolen after the 1996 flood. Removing gas stations from the Valley accomplishes nothing but increasing vehicle traffic to an from Crane Flat, Wawoma and El Portal, and removal of NPS facilites to Crane Flat simply increases commuter traffic between the Valley and El Portal.

The ordinary working stiff who was out of shape for a stiff hike never had access to the Grand Canyon floor, but always had access to car camping (or horseback camping before automobiles) in Yosemite Valley for the last 150 years. Not every National Park needs or would benefit from uniform management.

Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Aug 11, 2014 - 01:04pm PT
I wonder what John Wesley Powell would say.

Released into general population, Idaho
Aug 11, 2014 - 01:21pm PT
When a place becomes sacred, it ceases to be relevant.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Aug 11, 2014 - 05:50pm PT
I think that there are many other ways to have everyone enjoy YNP without their having to drive their private cars through the Valley in high season.

And those ways could provide even more opportunity to those with limited means to enjoy the Valley, and to make many of the consequences of unlimited private transportation much less of an impact.

For this last point, having a bus system like Zion would help prevent ad hoc bathroom stops at every turnout (as currently determined by the occupants of private cars). I don't know how to eliminate the problem otherwise. Those of you who have been to Facelift know of the persistent, year after year task of cleaning up all manner of toilet paper, as well as a variety of cast off, soiled clothing. Unlike a lot of stuff we pickup at the Facelift, this stuff does not seem to be declining.

Why should the park service take advantage of the climber's good will to clean up tourist sh#t? What is their plan to prevent that sh#t in the first place? (there is none).

This might seem like a trivial issue except that it affects the determination of the visitation quota that must be established along the Merced R. which is a "wild and scenic" river by designation. You can estimate the sewage load from the visitors by counting piles of crap, and by doubling the amount of pee-wipes which can be found at the away-from-road sides of trees.

Limiting private cars would also reduce the need for parking space. In particular, parking space is calculated for some maximum number of cars as determined by the usage during the high season. It is not at all clear that having those parking lots mostly empty for 9 months of the year is in keeping with the stewardship of the wilderness.

While I would prefer a "path only" park, it is unrealistic and counter to the NPS meeting their goals, but having completely uncontrolled private automobile access also runs counter to a visitors "experience" in the park, sitting in traffic for hours is something you can do many other places, while the views are more spectacular in the Valley, I think that is only a minor distraction to the visitors' impatience.

Less commercial housing, fewer visitor amenities (e.g. restaurants, cafes, etc.) are all convenience that take away from the setting, they do not enhance the experience of the Yosemite Valley, a place which was set aside so that people could go to a place where people were only visitors...

...we've overstayed our visit.

While historic considerations come in to conflict with wilderness stewardship (the Ahwahnee hotel is a national landmark), it is hard to argue that most visitors to the park would notice if the hotel was there or not... I can go many other places to view the 1920's architectural style... I prefer the natural architecture of the rock walls to those of humans, especially in such a place.

The reduction in infrastructure could support more camping space. There is already a local transportation system to move visitors around the park without them needing to resort to private cars, and there is always the extensive path and trail system available to those visitors who can use them. I don't see the current situation requiring the need for private autos at all.

I presume this would be a seasonal issue, though I would be prepared to figure out how to get to the Valley and move around in the Valley under those conditions if it were required. I would do that because it is such a special place to be that overcoming some "inconvenience" is relatively minor compared to the rewards of being there.

Many problems that plague managing the park are due to it's being more like a city, than a rural campground. That would indicate that making it less like a city, and more like a campground, might achieve a reduction in those management difficulties.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Aug 11, 2014 - 06:48pm PT

The continuing drone of airplanes and helicopters
has besieged the canyon for years. . .

Aug 11, 2014 - 07:18pm PT
Personally I think Tusayan could use a little development, it's incredibly small for being the primary gateway for 5 million visitors per year. Outside of the summer months (which should be avoided), the South Rim is pretty deserted, and it's seriously cold and desolate during the winter. I agree that the tramway would be pretty lame, much like the Skywalk. But if we're going to ban these things, how about we rip out Phantom Ranch too with its air conditioned cabins, hot showers and icy lemonade.

But in any case, the Grand Canyon isn't "threatened" by these two projects. Go ahead and give the fat lazy tourists a few more places to congregate, it will still be plenty easy to find thousands of square miles of empty wilderness.

The Big / Little Colorado confluence looking down from Cape Solitude:

Credit: tdk
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