Grand Canyon National Park sits on a precipiceâ€”unfortunately not the kind for which it's known. Property developers anxious to add man-made amenities to the world wonder's natural beauty are awaiting a decision from the Navajo Tribe, which owns the potential development site.
In what's being called the Grand Canyon Escalade project, developers are hoping to build a cable-car that would transport tourists from the top of the Grand Canyon's rim to its bottom, where a newly built resort area would await. The development would be built on the sovereign territory of the Navajo Nation, and if Arizona entrepreneur Lamar Whitmer has his way, the gondola will be running by 2017.
Many conservationists and members of the Navajo tribe are against the project, saying that the development would mar the natural beauty and desecrate an area many Native Americans call sacred.
"It would trash the heart of the Grand Canyon," Tom Martin, the co-director of River Runners for Wilderness told The Telegraph. "It hurts my heart," added Nae Yellowhorse, spokesman for a group of Navajo traditionalists fighting the development.
The cable-car, estimated to cost around $1.5 million, would descend into the canyon at a place known as The Confluence, the spot where the Colorado River and the Little Colorado meet. Once down into the canyon, tourists would find a 420-acre resort complete with hotels, restaurants, shops, car and recreational vehicle parks, and a cultural center on the rim overlooking the Confluence, reports The Telegraph.
Whitmer believes that the development would bring $60-70 million per year for the Navajo nation and create nearly 2,000 jobs. That's an alluring proposition for a people living in impoverished conditions.
"Of course it's a majestic area," Navajo tribe member Brian Kensley told Fronteras. "It's an origin area, an oral tradition area. It's a seventh wonder of the world in our backyard, but I would like to share that sacredness with other outside people."
However, not all Navajo are confident that they'll see significant benefits.
"The benefits won't trickle down to our people. At best we'll be turning down the sheets of multi-millionaires," Yellowhorse told The Telegraph. "Our prayers would bounce off the glittering lights and get lost in space."