March 15, 2007

Skywalk vs. Snowbowl

A hypocritical stance by tribesQuestion: What makes an ugly steel/glass structure over the Grand Canyon a thing of beauty for Native Americans and man-made snow from recycled water at Snowbowl a desecration of natural land?

Answer: One will make lots of money for the tribe and the other doesn't belong to them.

The Skywalk is an eyesore in one of Earth's most beautiful places. Snow from the sky and man-made snow look the same.
Comment:  This letter writer presumes that all Native people do and should think alike. That's his first mistake.

Natives don't hold that every inch of Nature is equally sacred. The San Francisco Peaks are a specific sacred site.

Some tribes may hold the Grand Canyon sacred, but it's more likely to be the bottom (where they supposedly emerged from) than the rim. And if the Hualapai don't consider the rim sacred, that's their right.

Of course, the Hualapai tribe seems to be split on the Skywalk. Which would indicate that some Hualapai consider the canyon rim sacred and some don't. Indians that disagree with each other: what a concept.

1 comment:

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
From USA TODAY, Fri. Mar 16 --
Janette Havatone gazes at the peach-colored, glass-bottomed viewing platform being nudged into position 4,000 feet above the Grand Canyon's floor on her Native Hualapai Indian Reservation and recalls how she wept when she first heard of plans to build the structure.
"You got a natural peace when you were out here, and now that's gone," says Havatone, 51, a teacher-turned-gift-shop-clerk. But she's philosophical now about the tourist attraction. Her tribe, she says, is "moving from the natural into a new era."
Tribal officials look at the new Grand Canyon Skywalk that juts 65 feet off the rim into thin air and see econimic survival. Some conservationists, however, view it as a tacky tourist attraction that defaces a natural wonder.
The much-hyped $30 million Skywalk will give tourists with steely nerves and $74.95 to spare a bird's-eye view of the canyon below when it opens March 28. But already Skywalk has been dubbed everything from inspired to blasphemous.
"I still believe in the old ways," Havatone says. "But this sets us up for the future. My children and grandchildren will have something to fall back on," economically.
On Monday, three years after construction began on the million-pound platform, members of the impoverished Hualapai tribe will walk out onto the horseshoe-shaped deck for the first time. Former astronaut 'Buzz' Aldrin leads a ceremonial "first walk" Tuesday.
The soaring walkway certainly is the Hualapais' most out-there tourist endeavor, though it isn't their first. Or their last.
Skywalk is the centerpiece of Grand Canyon West, the 9,000-acre swath of the one million-acre Haulapai Reservation set aside for tourist development. Plans call for a 6,000-square-foot visitors center at the entrance of the platform with a high-end restaurant, museum, movie theater and meeting space.
A long-term $45 million airport expansion at Grand Canyon West is underway. Forty cabin-style rooms are planned, and some of them are open. Off-road turf for Hummer tours is being expanded. A resort hotel may eventually take shape. And perhaps most audaciously, the tribe is considering a tram from the rim to the canyon floor.
The Haulapais' location at the far western reaches of the 277-mile-long canyon and about 250 road miles west of the major tourist facilities at Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim means they attract only a fraction of the park's numbers.
About 300,000 visitors a year arrive here (compared with the national park's more than 4 million), and most are on day trips from Las Vegas. Tribal officials predict the Skywalk will double attendance this year alone and say they can handle 2,000 visitors a day (up from an average of 500 on the rim), despite the lack of infrastructure such as electricity and water.
For now, they're trucking in 8,000 gallons of water a day. Waste is hauled out. Power is generated by diesel engines. And getting into the park requires a 14-mile drive over unpaved, washboard roads.
Not all the Hualapais' previous ventures have had happy endings. A casino built in the mid-90s folded after only seven months -- the first Arizona Indian gaming operation to do so. Turns out, visitors, most of whom were fresh from the glitz of Las Vegas 120 miles west of here, had little desire to jerk slots handles in a gloomy airport terminal when the wondrous Grand Canyon loomed nearby.
Similarly, a proposed "scientific Disneyland" featuring telescopes for night-sky viewing never got off the ground. In 1999, the tribe allowed daredevil Robbie Knievel to jump a side canyon on his motorcycle, a feat that ganered intense, though fleeting, attention.
The tribe's first foray into tourism came in the 1970s when it began offering rafting trips on the Colorado River. Today, about 6,000 people a year run the river. They arrive by vehicle on the only road into the canyon 18 miles downhill from the tribal headquarters at Peach Springs and are lifted out by helicopter.
Later, the tribe partnered with other operators to run combination sightseeing flights and pontoon boat rides. New in the past two years are a rimside Indian village, featuring replica Native dwellings of various tribes, and a faux Old West town with cowboys, but notably, no Indians.
The Grand Canyon West experience is at once free-form and scripted. Visitors who haven't flown in on a package deal park their vehicles near a sign warning of low-flying aircraft at the small airport terminal and take shuttle buses to the attractions. Drivers make standard wisecracks about "Grand Canyon divorces" ("Step back a little farther, honey..."), and the same gunfight plays over and over in the dusty Old West plaza. Native American dancers in native dress -- though not necessarily of their own tribes -- perform for tips.
At Eagle Point near the Skywalk, greeter Don Havatone, brother of Janette Havatone, is resplendent in a homemade feather headdress. He guides visitors to the edge of the 4,000-foot abyss, which, unlike the glass-sided Skywalk, is unfettered by guardrails. He swears they haven't lost anyone yet.
As a sovereign nation, the Hualapais aren't bound by National Park Service regulations. This is the only spot in the Grand Canyon where helicopters can fly below the rim, for instance.
There are no park rangers, though there is a security guard who threatened spectators with expulsion for snapping photos of tribal officials and business associates walking on the newly-rolled-out Skywalk.
(The tribe is saving the photo opportunities for Tuesday ceremonies with Aldrin.)
Meanwhile, this latest attraction has sparked apoplexy among some environmentalists.
Though he understands the Hualapais' need for economic development, "The tribe has repeatedly brought tacky, gross commercial ventures into the canyon, and it's inappropriate. Especially when there are alternatives," says Kieran Suckling, policy director for the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity.
"We're frankly aghast at what they're doing to the Grand Canyon. It's one of the seven wonders of the world, and they're making it a Disneyland."
Some tribal elders also express concern. One octogenarian, who didn't want her name used for fear of retribution, says the Skywalk violates long-held beliefs that the land should be respected.
Tribal leaders counter that they're developing only a fraction of the land. Having opted out of gaming, a $23 billion-a-year industry for Native American tribes elsewhere, the Hualapais looked for something to generate revenue and saw their slice of the Grand Canyon as a natural.
"For us to take a small portion is nothing compared to what's going on outside," says Robert Bravo, Jr., operations manager for Grand Canyon West. "We're sitting on one of the seven natural wonders of the world. We have all kinds of goals and visions."
Sheri Yellowhawk, 37, a mother of six who earned her master's degree online, has directed the tribe's economic ventures for the past five years. With unemployment at about 50% and more than third of the tribe's 1400 on-reservation members living below the poverty level, economic development is a priority, she says.
Sipping a Rockstar energy drink near the Skywalk last week, she defended the business partnerships that have ramped up commercial enterprises during her tenure. "We're not building a power plant. We're building a natural way to view the canyon," she says.
The Skywalk was the brainchild of China-born Las Vegas businessman David Jin, whose tourism-related dealings with the tribe date to the 1990s.
Originally, the walkway was conceived as a more-humble $200,000 platform, Yellowhawk says, and evolved into a more ambitious 70-foot-long by 65-foot-wide sky bridge.
Jin and the Hualapais willl share the profits for a period, but the tribe ultimately will own the attraction.
"Change is hard, but we have to prepare for the future," Yellowhawk says. "I don't think the Skywalk will save us. But it's a catalyst."

NOTE: writerfella sez, the $74.95 is made up of the original $49.95 Grand Canyon West admission charge and $25 to visit the Skywalk for 15 minutes. The $49.95 price includes transport, a buffet lunch, and admission to the small number of other attractions onsite. The guest rooms only can be reserved with a package deal.
Sounds interesting, but it's too rich for writerfella's blood. It also sounds overripe for vandals or saboteurs or even eco-terrorists to pass up. Watch and $ee, what profit$ may exi$t will get eaten by infra$tructure maintenance, in$urance co$t$, further Grand Canyon We$t development$, and increa$e$ in $alarie$, with maybe a dollar-$2.98 going to the people. Whatever happens, the people themselves never will be able to afford to visit their own Skywalk...
All Best
Russ Bates