Grand Canyon South Rim Navajo Indian Reservation Los Angeles Times

Bad News on News on the Horizon for Grand Canyon     Photo: Steve Dunleavy/flickr

The Grand Canyon Is Doomed

Gondolas, shops, and hotels pose monumental threat

Back on June 4, we reported that Fabien Cousteau, grandson of the famed red knit-cap-wearing oceanophile Jacques Cousteau, was going to spend 31 days underwater with his crew off the Florida Keys. Yesterday, Fabien resurfaced after spending all of June in Aquarius, the world's only underwater laboratory, which is operated by Florida International University.
“It was amazing how much it felt like home,” Cousteau told the media, five hours after seeing daylight for the first time in over a month. “I can imagine for someone who doesn’t like tight spaces it could be much more difficult.”
The project, dubbed Mission 31, was undertaken to collect research of the ocean environment, while raising awareness for marine conservation. With the successful completion of his endeavor, Cousteau the younger (and two tenacious scientists who also stuck it out) now holds the record for the time continuously spent submerged in the big blue. Fabien bested his grandfather's record by one day, although it is unlikely that he will ever match Jacques verbal acuity.
"A lot of men attack the sea," he once said. "I make love to it."

The National Park Service has called new developments proposed for the Grand Canyon the "most serious threat the park has faced in its 95-year history." 

A mesa visible from the South Rim, which belongs to the Navajo Indian Reservation, could soon become a construction site as restaurants, hotels, and shops are erected in an attempt to spur local tourism, according to the Los Angeles TimesThe same developers are also planning to install a gondola that will transport visitors from the rim to the canyon floor, currently only accessible by foot or mule.  

R. Lamar Whitmer, one of the developers, justified the plans by saying that the NPS offers most visitors only a "drive-by wilderness experience." He claims that the Grand Canyon Escalade gondola would give less-mobile individuals a chance to see more of this 2 billion-year-old geological wonder. "The average person can't ride a mule to the bottom of the canyon," Whitmer said. "We want them to feel the canyon from the bottom."

The developers are also planning to add 2,200 homes and 3 million square feet of commercial space just south of the canyon. NPS worries those new developments will jeopardize some of the park's most iconic vistas and push already-strained resources to the brink.

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

 

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