Grand Canyon Gondola Debate Continues

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For years, talk has circulated about developing a gondola into the Grand Canyon, which would allow those not able to make the difficult hike to the floor of the canyon have the opportunity to access it and enjoy the views. The Navajo Nation Council are now on the verge of approving plans for a gondola, as well as an entire Grand Canyon Escalade development, which would bring in hotels, restaurants, retail and a Navajo cultural center to the rim.

The billion-dollar development, the Grand Canyon Escalade, is the product of Arizona developers Confluence Partners. The main feature of the 420-acre Escalade would be its Tramway, a gondola system descending 3,200 feet into the canyon. The 1.4-mile, 10-minute ride would take passengers in groups of eight in multiple gondolas to the floor of the canyon at the Colorado River, which would then house restrooms, shops and eateries and walkways.

The new development could break ground in 2017, and now both the Navajo Nation and the National Park Service are raising more concerns. Both groups and conservationists fear the development could seriously and negatively alter the canyon.

Currently, a development of hotels, restaurants and retail is located on the Canyon’s South Rim, with the neighboring town of Tusayan growing with more hotels, restaurants and attractions. The proposed development would be built on Navajo land, on the canyon’s South Rim. As Navajo land, developers must seek approval through the Council, which would need to invest in road and infrastructure, but also could bring in thousands of jobs and millions of dollars annually.

This isn’t the first time a debate has erupted over development at the Grand Canyon. On the canyon’s North Rim, development of the Skywalk, which created a walkway extending out over the canyon, sparked similar arguments, ultimately receiving approval and opening in 2007. Further development of the area is still stalled in legal action.

–Lissa Poirot

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