Two decades ago, developers wanted to build a massive outlet mall in Tusayan, at the southern entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. That dream has metastasized into today’s proposal for “…3 million square feet of commercial space—with high-end stores, fancy hotels, condos, a concert pavilion, spa, dude ranch and Native American cultural fair—along with hundreds of homes, at a range of price-points, and some of it meant for local workers.”
Groundwater to meet Tusayan’s current needs is pumped from deep wells in the Redwall-Muave aquifer, which also feeds springs in the Grand Canyon. Park officials, Havasupai leaders, and the Grand Canyon Trust are concerned that the proposed new development will require new wells that will further diminish flows into the Canyon’s fragile seeps and springs. Later this year, permits for the development’s water and sewer systems will be reviewed by the Arizona Corporation Commission. The Trust has filed to intervene in the process and will press for alternative water sources to be considered.
This is merely the most recent threat that business interests impose on the Grand Canyon. Papillon Helicopter’s owner Elling Halvorson, for example, is also invested in Tusayan’s 250-room Grand Canyon Squire Inn and an IMAX theater. After making substantial donations to political campaigns of Arizona Senator John McCain, Halvorson has won McCain’s support for weakening rules to reduce air tour noise over the park.
In addition, IMAX representatives are complaining that a new educational video being shown at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center is hurting their business and are urging the National Park Service shorten its length
An in-depth investigative story in High Country News unveiled how Halvorson has entered into a business partnership with proponents of the new development in shaping the Tusayan city council’s support for key decisions in favor of the sprawling project.
Newly retired Arizona Republic editorial writer Kathleen Ingley was so appalled that she devoted her final two columns to expressing concern about Tusayan’s development plans and other schemes to exploit Arizona’s “premier natural wonder.”