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Grand Canyon Skywalk Moved into Place


Grcaskywalk1_copy_1     How do folks want to view and enjoy the Grand Canyon?
    Do they want to stand in awe on the rim and gaze into its deeply furrowed flanks? Do they wish to float along the Colorado River and soak in the immensity of this geologic wonder? Do they want to fly over it and look down? Or do they want to walk 70 feet out over the abyss on a man-made walkway that Hualapai tribal officials hope will make them rich?
    At least one of these questions will be answered in the months to come as the tribe is just about ready to open its Grand Canyon Skywalk on the canyon's West Rim to the paying public. And at $25 a pop for a walk along the glass-bottomed walkway, that question could be quickly answered.
    The walkway was secured in place yesterday, and tribe officials say they could open it to the public by month's end.
     What's disconcerting about this venture is that tribal elders consider the canyon to be sacred. Indeed, according to the AP story part of the skywalk's construction impacted land scattered with Hualapai burial sites. Should economics trump spiritual beliefs?


When it comes to sacred versus profitable, sacred sometimes takes a backseat and becomes profane. In a sense, I can't fault the tribe though. The river has been dammed, parts of the the canyon have been mined and ranched, railroad tracks have been laid practically to the rim, and most/much of it is now federal land that an approved concessionaire makes money from. I suppose the tribe sees this arc as an extension of others who have profited from the canyon.

I think Claire's analysis is correct. "Should economics trump spiritual beliefs?" I can't pinpoint another documented case at the moment, but my gut tells me the answer is yes. And more than a few times. And not just in the West. At a national park.

"Should economics trump spiritual beliefs?" You can't eat spiritual beliefs. Peyote aside of course.

It does. Doesn't mean it *should*, but more than not, it does.

The facilities the National Park Service built at the Grand Canyon are, for the most part, necessary in order for people to visit the canyon. Not many people could or would visit if there were no place to stay, no place to eat and no railroad or road to get there. The arhitects of the El Tovar and the other buildings at the South Rim kept the buildings aesthetically in line with the canyon. They don't obstruct canyon views. When you're on the viewpoints to the west or east of the South Rim developed area, you can't even see the El Tovar or Bright Angel Lodge. This tacky tourist trap is not only not necessary in order for people to see the canyon, it seems to have been designed by the Las Vegas/Disney school of architecture. What happens when this thing goes bankrupt which it almost certainly will.

"The arhitects of the El Tovar and the other buildings at the South Rim kept the buildings aesthetically in line with the canyon." What a load of crap. The Market Plaza at the South Rim is the size of a K-Mart. Why do we need such a big store in a National Park? "The facilities the National Park Service built at the Grand Canyon are, for the most part, necessary in order for people to visit the canyon." Again I need my hip waders. John Wesley Powell and early travelers didn't need a small city on the South Rim to sustain them. Nor did Clarence Dutton or John Muir or Teddy Roosevelt, who expressed his wish that it remain pristine for future generations. Today, the Canyon is anything but pristine with houses and pay phones at Phantom Ranch, a water pipeline across the canyon, a bank, an ATM, 11 restaurants, an auto mechanic shop, Internet access, a kennel, a medical clinic, a post office, gas stations, gift shops, six lodges with almost 1000 rooms costing up to $300 a night. There are 228 miles of roads and 1143 buildings. This isn't "necessary". It's excessive and it's impossible to find solitude on the South Rim. So back off the Hualapai. I'm fed up with this racist double standard. After everything the US government has done to native peoples, how dare you smugly anticipate the financial failure of their tribe! Condemnation of the Hualapai smacks of Anglo hypocrisy. It's like that 1990s drug commercial where the dad catches his son with marijuana and asks how he learned to do drugs. His son replies, "I learned it by watching you! Ok?! I learned it by watching YOU!"

So if the Hualapai build a skywalk over the canyon, it's okay. If the NPS were to do it, it's not okay. Yeah, I see the double standard. Do I think that too much development in the park is a bad thing? Absolutely. But it's naive to think that people want to endure the hardships of a John Wesley Powell in order to see the canyon. Some development is necessary. Is the building of a skywalk over the canyon necessary. No. It is the attraction, like a Disneyland attraction, not the canyon itself. Do I think that the Hualapai should live in poverty? Of course not. But do I think they should be held to laxer environmental rules and standards than everyone else? No.

It's also revealing that not all the tribe wants this Skywalk. And do I think that travelers will drive many miles over dirt roads and pay $25 a head, $100 for a family of four, to spend a few minutes walking on this thing? No. But we shall see.

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