The Grand Canyon Faces Gravest Threat in the Park's 95-Year History

Developers want to put gondolas, hotels and shops in and around the Grand Canyon, in what the National Park Service has called the "most serious threat the park has faced in its 95-year history."

Above: A panorama of the Grand Canyon from the South Rim, from which proposed developments would be visible | Photo Credit: Roger Bolsius via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Environmental reporter Julie Cart investigates the perennial conflict between park officials and developers in a feature for the L.A. Times. According to Cart, the point of contention seems to center around each party's definition of the "visitor experience."

Developers like R. Lamar Whitmer argue that major housing developments (i.e. 2,200 homes and 3 million square feet of commercial space, visible from the canyon's southern rim), along with shops and hotels, stand to boost local tourism; meanwhile, Whitmer argues that a gondola that transports visitors from the rim to the canyon floor (a trek currently only possible by foot, mule, or Google street view), would, elevate the park from "a drive-by winderness experience" to one accessible by the "average person."

Park officials, however, don't see it that way:

...existing development around the park and the scarcity of water have already stressed the park's ability to handle visitors. The new projects would only make matters worse.

"They are serious threats to the future of the park," said park Supt. Dave Uberuaga. "When you have that size and scope of potential development that close to the park, it will impact our visitor experience."

Read more about the proposed developments, what Dave Nimkin of the National Parks Conservation Assn. calls "profound and enormous threats to the park...a grim forecast," at The L.A. Times.