March 4, 2016: In a victory celebrated by Native American tribes, Grand Canyon National Park officials and environmentalists, the U.S. Forest Service rejected a proposal from an Italian developer that would have transformed the small town of Tusayan, a two-minute drive from the Grand Canyon’s south entrance.
The Stilo Development Group’s proposal would have added 2,100 houses and 3 million square feet of commercial space in the form of hotels and restaurants, among other things.
Preventing Harm to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon
“The Forest Service’s rejection of Stilo’s proposal to allow for roads to build a mega mall development at the Grand Canyon’s doorstep is a huge win for the park and all those who love it,” said Kevin Dahl, Arizona program manager of National Parks Conservation Association, in a written statement. “It would have threatened critical water resources, essential for the park’s fragile and ecologically important springs and side creeks, and would have posed serious harm to Havasu Creek with its famous turquoise waterfalls.”
Tusayan Development Proposal Feedback
The forest service was a critical player in the development proposal because the Stilo Development Group needed its approval to improve roads and install utilities on National Forest land. For nearly two years, the forest service evaluated the development’s impacts, getting feedback from nearby Native American tribes, including the Havusupai, Hopi, Hualapai, Yavapai-Prescott, Navajo, Yavapai Apache and Pueblo of Zuni. It also met with local non-Native Americans, nearby Grand Canyon National Park officials and environmentalists. It received more than 38,000 letters, the majority opposed to the project.
“Based on information received in the record, I have determined that the Tusayan proposal is deeply controversial, is opposed by local and national communities, would stress local and park infrastructure and have untold impacts to the surrounding tribal and national park lands,” Heather Provencio, forest supervisor, wrote in a letter dated March 4, 2016, to Craig Sanderson, Tusayan’s mayor.
Negative Impact on Grand Canyon National Park’s Water Resources
In a desert environment where water is a scarce resource, she mentioned the fresh water system serving the park is “marginally capable of meeting their needs” and would not be capable of meeting the needs of the new development.
A town of 600, Tusayan’s population had the potential to more than quadruple in size with the proposed development’s plan of building 2,100 houses. For some locals, the development was seen as a positive project with the potential to dramatically boost the town’s economic prospects