Monday, April 9, 2012

Tribe wants to bring tourists to Grand Canyon's East Rim

Late in March, the Navajo Nation announced plans for a tourism-related development on the undeveloped East Rim of the Grand Canyon. Including a hotel, RV park, tram, and a gondola to take tourists down to the bottom of the canyon, the official tribal spin is one of enthusiasm with the proposal. But not everyone is going along with the idea.

The development--if it happens--will take place at a spot along the Little Colorado River where it meets up with the Colorado River. Called the "Confluence," its an area where the night skies are dark, and few people venture into. It's also sacred ground in the view of the Hopi Indian tribe, who are far from happy with the Navajo proposal. The former point with irony toward the Navajo's view of the production of artificial snow to increase ski runs on the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Arizona. When that proposal was floated, the Navajo's were dead set against it, calling the peaks, sacred lands.

Another concerned group includes the US Government, in the form of the National Park Service, particularly the managers at the nearby Grand Canyon National Park. Officials there say they received most of their information on the Navajo's plans when the news media broke the story. With no formal information available to them, red flags are still popping up.

Since the East Rim lands that are in the Navajo development cross-hairs are listed as proposed federal wilderness, the Park Service is tasked with managing the lands until Congress tells them otherwise. An endangered fish, the humpback chub, calls the Little Colorado River home. The ramifications of development aren't clear, but still, it's a warning. And the Park Service is concerned about the feelings that Native Americans have about the area--both the Navajo and the Hopi. To that end, the Service works hard to keep travel through the area down.

Still, the Navajo say they need the funds that tourism brings, and they see far too many tourists bypassing Navajo lands while going to and from the national park. Perhaps the Navajo's plans would also serve to somewhat protect the area. At this point, commercial developers are eying the East Rim hungrily.

Tramways to the great river? Housing projects? Sacred lands left open for a few? It's a big problem, and one that won't quickly be resolved.

photo: R & T DeMaris