By Courtney Holden
March 22, 2012: The Grand Canyon Skywalk, a man-made path built in 2007 that extends over the Grand Canyon and the churning Colorado River, is a beautiful spot in bitter dispute. The small Hualapai Indian Nation whose land it sits on wants to pull all rights from the Grand Canyon Skywalk Development Corporation that spent roughly $30 million to build it. According to the contract, the developer has the right to manage the attraction for 25 years and share the profits.
But in February 2012, the Hualapai tribe exercised its right of eminent domain. This bold act was the result of years of failed negotiations over infrastructure management and implementation, including power, sewer, and water. There is also an unfinished visitors' center, another source of debate, conflict, and apparent embarrassment for the tribe. Revenue from the Skywalk has been held in a trust since 2010.
The money at stake is just as important as the land. Tickets to enjoy the Skywalk can cost upwards of $70 per person, or more, depending on various packages, taxes, and fees.
"We've been in negotiations with them, we've tried to work with them. It was our last option really," Candida Hunter, a member of the Hualapai Tribal Council, told Reuters (via BaltimoreSun.com) of the seizure. "We just need to move forward now."
The contractor countered: "They took everything. And then the tribal court issued an order that we were trespassers if we were even there. You do understand this is like Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, don't you?", Troy Eid, the builder's lawyer told Reuters.