Grand Canyon Escalade dies another death


The Navajo Nation dealt the Grand Canyon Escalade project another death blow.
South Canyon, a tributary on the Grand Canyon’s east side.

A proposal to drop a gondola ride into the east rim of Grand Canyon suffered another blow Saturday.

The project, known as Grand Canyon Escalade, had a couple of moving parts: a bill before the Navajo Nation Council and a 2012 resolution passed by the Bodaway-Gap Chapter.

The council voted overwhelmingly against the bill last fall. But the Bodaway-Gap resolution remained on the books.

55-0 vote

The chapter overturned it Saturday, 55-0, after a political advisor told them the resolution could be used to revive the project, Save the Confluence reported on its web site.

The advisor, Larry Foster, said that the developers continue to lobby lawmakers in Window Rock, Save the Confluence reported. Roger Clark of the Grand Canyon Trust confirmed that the developers were still trying to find support for their project.

The Escalade’s website has gone dark, posting regional news stories and the following message: “Welcome and please be patient as we re-think and re-format our web presence.  We have some exiting (sic) new ideas and information we will be rolling out in the future.”

The developers wanted to sink a 1.6-mile gondola tram ride into the Canyon. The ride would have dropped 3,200 feet in elevation, taking visitors from rim to river in about 10 minutes. The project included commercial and retail space, a Navajo Discovery Center, a multimedia complex, a wastewater-treatment plant, a river walk and an administrative building. Future developments would include hotels, an RV park and a general store.

The Navajo would have been required to put up $65 million up front for infrastructure.

Chapter conflict

The project divided the region from the start. Shouting matches broke out at the Bodaway-Gap Chapter House as towns, neighborhoods, even families have split over the Escalade. Some said the project would bring jobs and economic investment to a part of the state where both are in short supply.

But the project would also have driven Navajo herders from their lands and placed a major development on what the Navajo, Hopi and other tribes consider sacred ground.

There were accusations of election fraud and paid activists on both sides during the controversy. But Save The Confluence reported that there was little evidence of that controversy at Saturday’s meeting. The developers were not present. There were few supporters of the project.

Bodaway-Gap Chapter Vice President Leonard Sloan, who tried to remain neutral during the controversy to help tamp down the emotions, addressed the chapter in Navajo after the overwhelming vote, stating the obvious. Save the Confluence translated: It is clubbed to death.

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