Grand Canyon, AZ: Gondola??

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the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 6, 2012 - 06:20pm PT
Thank you for all of the thoughtful replies.

I like the idea of exposing "wild places" (like Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Grand Tetons, Zion National Parks, et. al.) to as many persons as possible. Hopefully those persons, like most all of us, will realize the value of wilderness in an ever increasingly complex world. Even if we don't fully understand the reasons yet, it seems to be of interest to keep some places in their natural state.

In regards to persons with special needs in experiencing The Canyon, a lot of options come to mind: IMAX at Tusayan, helicopter and fixed wing air tours, donkey rides to the bottom and river trips. Plus the thirty miles of pavement on the South Rim. I think that sh1t is even on Google earth now. Lots of ways to experience the place for people of all interests and abilities.

I like to think this proposal would somehow help the peoples of the Navajo Nation and the rest of the world. General observations and experience prove otherwise. I would prefer this idea be scrapped.

crusher: AZ Snowbowl is set to start snowmaking next week. Like the rest of the country, we have had one of the driest, warmest Fall seasons (and years) on record. Thanks for the moneygrubbers link...

Jeremy: we are still playing in the sand and there is room; you and SB and JM know where...

Keep it wild.
Albert

crunch

Social climber
CO
Dec 16, 2012 - 08:53am PT
I like to think this proposal would somehow help the peoples of the Navajo Nation and the rest of the world. General observations and experience prove otherwise.

Yes, indeed. It would be nice to be more positive and proactive instead of negative.

The magazine High Country News has a nice article about this. Link here, but it appears only subscribers can get the full article online:

http://www.hcn.org/issues/44.21/will-navajos-approve-a-grand-canyon-megadevelopment

Anyway, interesting interviews. Those living nearby were mostly opposed; those living farther away, and thus who would be less impacted, were not so opposed.

What is a more appropriate type of development? One Navajo rancher, who lived near to the proposed Gondola and was opposed to the scheme, suggested that a model was perhaps Antelope Canyon. Here, the Navajo Nation earns steady income for guiding and allowing access to a world-famous photographer's destination, but without the heavy-handed industrial disruption of this proposed Gondola scheme.

I've driven past this area, know nothing about it really, but would welcome the chance to actually visit and explore. So many folks visit the nearby and much more famous Grand Canyon South Rim resort, it might be good to open up more terrain for hiking and sightseeing. So I wonder, maybe building a few trails and promoting this same Grand Canyon confluence area as a place of scenic beauty--which it evidently is--might bring visitors and yield income, jobs and money, without any need for the controversy and disruption of the Gondola proposal?



Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Dec 16, 2012 - 09:08am PT
Man always kills the thing he loves.

If it doesn't take much effort to see natural beauty then the experience has less value.
In highly delicate environments the wise conservation practice is to keep a high value to the experience by maintaining low traffic.

That this is another anglo attempt to pimp natural beauty slams the door on it.
(not that the Indians were all that good at conservation, or, for that matter, climbers)
Reeotch

Trad climber
4 Corners Area
Dec 16, 2012 - 09:17am PT
This is anglo developers, and their deep pockets, steamrolling over the Navajos, just like it usually is.

Please notice that the Navajo are by no means unified on this. This is indeed business as usual. Mining companies use the same tactics. It is easy to tempt an impoverished rural community with promises of jobs and business opportunities. The reality never seems to live up to the initial promises, and the real profits, if any, go elsewhere.

This is a wilderness, I certainly hope such a development doesn't get approved for this area. It would be a tragic loss. And, many Navajo agree with me on this . . .
the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 16, 2012 - 11:45am PT
crunch wrote: "So I wonder, maybe building a few trails and promoting this same Grand Canyon confluence area as a place of scenic beauty--which it evidently is--might bring visitors and yield income, jobs and money, without any need for the controversy and disruption of the Gondola proposal?"

Excellent ideas. I can think of off hand at least a dozen scrambling routes to the bottom of the LCR, including Moody "trail", Salt Trail, and Blue Springs trail, all highly recommended if you like adventure hiking. The Little Colorado River gorge (LCR) is an incredible place it would be nice if the Navajo Nation encouraged a little more low-impact activities such as hiking. There may even be some established climbing routes in the canyon. On a side note, base jumpers have really been drawn to the area. A couple years ago several did the jump, were unable to find the hike out and had to be rescued by DPS or NPS. Just last month a well known European base jumper leaped to his death near Salt Trail.

One major problem I believe some of the traditional locals have is that the Gondola would end within a mile or two of the "sipapu". From what I understand this is one of the most sacred sites in all their culture. I think it is good that people experience wild places, but there is a sickening image in my mind of the ugly fat American strolling over to the sipapu, munching on a Big Mac, drinking Starbucks.

The western part of the Navajo Nation is "the forgotten area" from what my Navajo friends tell me. Many, many hogans (homes) still have no electricity or running water in this area. A massive development could bring a number of low-paying service industry type jobs to the locals. I'm guessing that much of the profits would go into the pockets of a few individuals.

As I understand this proposal, the Gondola would be easily visible from the South Rim (which sees something like 5 million visitors a year). I am all about helping impoverished persons improve their way of life, yet the thought of this development sends shivers down my spine. I feel it is wise to keep certain places wild, without the intrusion of man and our developments.
deuce4

climber
Hobart, Australia
Dec 16, 2012 - 11:57am PT
Crunch, you really should take a weekend to explore around there. There's a couple ways down from rim to river, I'm certain that some moab-based adventurers will have some beta, or just drive over to Cameron and head off exploring the off-road routes along the Little Colorado rim and find one of the routes yourself (that's how I first made my way down there--thinking like, and following in the footsteps of the ancient ones). It's a most magic spot in the southwest.

EDIT--another tip has to do with a town named after a musical instrument as a starting point...
HighDesertDJ

Trad climber
Dec 16, 2012 - 12:17pm PT
If our country would spend a little more time trying to help create economic opportunities for people who choose to continue living on tribal lands, perhaps they wouldn't continue to propose development ideas that many of us find objectionable.
the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 16, 2013 - 09:57am PT
Interesting letter to the editor with a local perspective:


Navajo Times, 1/3/2013

Why not nursing home at Confluence?

I lived in the Confluence area for 33 years herding sheep with no running water, no electricity, no paved roads, no housing for our large family although we lived in a comfortable small hogan, and taking care of my father's cattle until he passed away six years ago. He was laid to rest about five or six miles within the Confluence area where he gave his offering and prayed for his people to live in happiness and love one another, not fighting between each other. He loved to be among nature and the quiet surroundings. He passed down his grazing permit to me before he passed on.

Today my cattle are still out in the Confluence area. We still go to the sacred prayer sites to give our offering and pray for our people's needs. We don't want to share the sacred prayer sites with the camera-toting tourists.

Bodaway/Gap Chapter voted in October (barely) to develop the Grand Canyon Escalade project. What I don't understand was twice passing the resolutions earlier in the year in opposition to the development. Didn't that count?

What's wrong with our chapter officials? We voted for them to help other chapter members, not work against them. The new chapter officials aren't any better.

The supporters of the project stated there were tourists already at the site. To this day I've only seen a few tourists trying to find their way out. They say the tribe would manage the site better. The tribe would have to hire private security. They'll have to pay a fortune to do that. The Navajo Police won't do the job.

Instead of building an expensive resort why not build a nursing center for our elders so they won't be sent off the reservation? They'll be closer to their home and livestock where they grew up, a place where they call home. There will be jobs available for sure.

Our sacred sites will be destroyed forever. It will never be the same again. We will witness the greatest destruction of one of the Seven Wonders of the World by a non-Native organization.

My grandmother and my mother would get after us young kids to not throw rocks down the canyon. The Holy People live down there, they would say to us.

I have made it to those meetings and I didn't see any threats of violence although there were some people yelling at each other. The whole thing is causing division of relatives and friends in the communities.

One Hualapai I've met in Flagstaff said it all: "That Skywalk is a piece of junk. Don't let them build the resort on your land." He mentioned the Hualapai Tribe is paying big money for the Skywalk ever since the stockbrokers started pulling out.

Mr. Albert Hale, you and your Confluence Partners LLC have betrayed, backstabbed, and lied to us. Come on, Mr. Hale. Come back down to the Native world and join the right people. I'm totally against the Grand Canyon Escalade Project.

Robert Wilson
Page, Ariz.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Jan 16, 2013 - 12:47pm PT
Very interesting commentary here, particularly considering our own Gondola project now going ahead beside the squamish Chief.

I can't comment on your situation but I think its worth highlighting a few issues. First, I agree that it is a win win if you can find an area that can be sacrificed in terms of absolute wilderness values for the purpose of giving less capable or aware people people a "sample taste" of "being in the mountains" and being in wilderness . No its not what we consider "being in wilderness" but to regular shleps it is. We need those shleps to buy into our values for political support on other wilderness preservation issues.

I say sacrifice only in the sense of "pure wilderness" values being compromised. In a true wilderness area maybe this is a bad idea if what would be lost is simply too rare a commodity.

In other words the whole purpose of such a thing ( aside from making a ton of money) is to allow "urban people" the chance to sample wilderness, within thier capabilities and sensibilities, without unduly ruining those widerness values. limits to development should be part of the permitting conditions and should preserve those values. Obvious examples of such a thing are ski resorts or places like yosemite valley.

The other thing is that Gondolas are actually pretty low impact in all regards, including to a degree visual. They make very little noise and are driven by elecrtic power. Compared to a harley ripping through the valley or a bloody helicopter it's no contest.

If you think we really need to get away from fossil fuels ( only an idiot would not) then again this is a low carbon way to gain elevation.

So maybe its a bad idea where proposed in the grand canyon but elsewhere there are a lot of positives to consider.
the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 16, 2013 - 05:15pm PT
Great insights, Bruce.

It is my understanding that the Grand Canyon is one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world. There are already many ways for persons of all abilities to experience the incredible beauty, including hiking, burro rides, rafts, airplanes, cars, movies, youtube, bicycles, etc. Around five million people a year enjoy the place in person each year already.

As our wilderness vanishes at astonishing rates, perhaps we need to rethink our ideas about making it more accessible for everyone. Do we want a rebar ladder route to the top of El Cap so people can experience climbing? What's next, a climate controlled Gondola to the top of Everest?

Edward Abbey wrote something about how the wilderness experience was so much more valuable with a little blood from a scraped knee, being thirsty, hungry and tired, and unsure of the outcome. I tend to agree with his assessment. Some things in life seem a little more rewarding with a bit of suffering.

Check this link: http://savetheconfluence.com/opposition-continues-for-the-grand-canyon-escalade/#more-997

I stand against the proposed Gondola, motels and restaurants.

Long live the desert.
Albert
drljefe

climber
El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Jan 16, 2013 - 05:48pm PT
Good post ^^^^

I 100% oppose the project.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jan 16, 2013 - 06:31pm PT
Maybe if the US guvmint provided a few more viable options to making a decent
living they wouldn't feel compelled to go this route?
ontheedgeandscaredtodeath

Social climber
SLO, Ca
Jan 16, 2013 - 06:46pm PT
Like what? Truth is that most of the res is in the middle of nowhere. There is no economy beyond goat herding and desert farming and there is not going to be another. This Gondola, unless it's completely on BIA land, is not going to happen. Nor should it, the area is easily accessible by boat or foot.
the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 16, 2013 - 09:44pm PT
The Colorado River system drains nearly 250,000 miles of seven western states (CO, UT, NM, WY, NV, AZ, CA) and has created hundreds of thousands of climbs, of all types, in many rock strata, plus tens of thousands of miles of cool hiking, biking and boating. Chances are you have explored there?
I bet we could easily list 500 roped climbing areas in the Colorado River drainage.

Imagine the confluence of the Colorado River and the LIttle Colorado River as being a contender for crown jewel of this massive river system. An unbelievable natural area inside one of the most spectacular environments in the world. A sight that is magical and unreal at the same time.

I believe about 25,000 people a year go to the confluence, most all by boat, a hardy handful hike.

Do we really want a Wendy's "tram through", an IKEA, a bunch of people selling "Authentic Made in China" turquoise at the base of a tram at the confluence? Should we not keep just a few places wild?

Here is Edward Abbey introducing his masterpiece, "Desert Solitaire":

"Do not jump into your automobile next June and rush out to the Canyon country hoping to see some of that which I have attempted to evoke in these pages. In the first place you can't see anything from a car; you've got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbrush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you'll see something, maybe. Probably not. In the second place most of what I wrote about in this book is gone or going under fast. This is not a travel guide but an elegy. A memorial. Your holding a tombstone in your hands. A bloody rock. Don't drop it on your foot - throw it at something big and glassy. What do you have to lose?"

E.A.
April 1967
Nelson's Marine Bar
Hoboken



Written nearly 46 years ago.
Thank you for all of the comments...

canyoncat

Social climber
SoCal
Jan 17, 2013 - 09:50am PT
The people who own the land should vote for whether they want this or not. The rest should STFU. That's what a democracy is.
ontheedgeandscaredtodeath

Social climber
SLO, Ca
Jan 17, 2013 - 10:25am PT
Um, it's federal land, either BIA or NPS.
the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 17, 2013 - 02:57pm PT
I agree with those who say this project is unlikely to continue due to it being in one of the premier national parks in the entire world.

But, stranger things have happened in the history of this country.

In the 1950s the government wanted to build a dam which would have flooded Dinosaur National Monument (north of Moab, Utah). The Sierra Club vigorously opposed this flooding and agreed to let Glen Canyon be flooded instead. David Brower, one of the gurus of the club, was able to take a float trip down Glen just before it flooded and it is said he came to a horrible realization that one of the great wild areas of the Colorado Plateau would be lost. Today, Lake Powell covers much of Glen Canyon.

I believe near Yosemite there is a place called Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. If my history is correct, this area was flooded and I think some claim it lead to the death of John Muir. (help me out here, folks).

One of our greatest rights in this awesome democracy we live in is called "freedom of speech". This allows us to share ideas, opinions and beliefs. The purpose of me starting this thread was to educate other folks about an issue they might be interested in. canyoncat- have you been to the Grand Canyon? The confluence? Just curious.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Jan 17, 2013 - 04:23pm PT
I'll tell you a short story about the Squamish Gondola....

7 or so years ago some Whistler dudes propose a Gondola going right up the Chief. Totally a high odds financial success but they didn't count on the hugh opposition as it would have completely destroyed an existing super high value recreational asset as a quasi wilderness hiking trail and summit. We sent them out of town tarred and feathered on a rail.

6 years later a different bunch of whistler dudes propose a gondola starting at exactly the same place but going 90 degrees off to the east up into an old regenerating logging cut block where nobody goes except for loggers once every 80 years or so. This thing is for nothing but tourists but there are obvious opportunities for hiking and biking access and trail development, as well as rock climbing potential and improved access to really good small scale mountaineering. Not surprisingly locals are strongly in favor.

First off nothing involved here is pure wilderness, even on the chief. There is much highway noise and tons of visual blight all over the place. Both areas qualify as "Semi Wilderness forest" assets easily accessed from urban centers. If you can overlook the urban blight a bit the views from up high are spectacular.

Both projects involved the concept of Provincial park land being "used", the last proposal using or effecting by far the least. Whatever opposition exists to the latest revolves around mostly the principle of removal / easement through park land to facilitate any development what so ever - a philisophical / ethical position.

I know it may be hard to picture but in a nut shell the first proposal wanted to really wreck existing high value public assets to serve a narrow demographic while the second wants to wreck hardly anything (threading the needle between existing high value assets) for a whole lot broader a potential benefit.

A really big difference and all you had to do was spin the thing ninety degrees.

Fun huh? (I'm sure Anders might describe it differently)

How this might relate to the Grand Canyon proposal I have no idea.

ontheedgeandscaredtodeath

Social climber
SLO, Ca
Jan 17, 2013 - 04:58pm PT
From what you describe it doesn't remotely relate to the GC proposal. I suppose I'm an idiot for even posting because this project has 0% chance of happening, but it's the middle of nowhere in a national park, not off some highway in Vancouver.
the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 25, 2013 - 04:02pm PT
New confluence news, it is sounding better for team wilderness...


Shelly still pondering Confluence

By Cindy Yurth
Navajo Times, Tseyi' Bureau, 1/24/13

TUBA CITY - Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said on Jan. 10 that, contrary to claims by developers he has not made a decision on whether or not to endorse a proposed $180 million resort and tramway at the Confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers.

In a Dec. 24 email interview, Lamar Whitmer of Confluence Partners LLC said he understood Shelly had given his blessing to the project last fall after the company presented him with a petition with more than 1,600 signatures in favor of the proposed "Grand Canyon Escalade."

Since then, however, competing petitions for and against the development have each garnered more than 2,500 signatures, according to their circulators.

The Hopi Tribe and the Grand Canyon Trust have also taken official positions against development at the Confluence, which figures prominently in both the Diné and Hopi creation stories.

Presidents of both the Diné Hataali Association and the Navajo Medicine Men Association have both decried the project, but nine medicine men have sided with the developers.

In October, Shelly sent a letter to Whitmer saying he would give his blessing to the project only if it had "solid public support"
by Dec. 31.

During a brief interview at the Western Agency inauguration, Shelly said he has not yet made that determination, and would like to talk with both the new Bodaway/Gap chapter officials and
other residents in the area that would be affected by the resort.

"I'm not going to lead the charge," Shelly said. "I'm going to see what the people want and get behind that."

Under the previous chapter administration, Bodaway/Gap voted
twice for resolutions against the Escalade, but then passed one in favor of the development by seven votes.

Escalade opponents say the votes were miscounted and there were other procedural problems with the meeting, and have filed complaints with the Ethics and Rules.
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