Thursday, March 08, 2007

Grand Canyon Skywalk controversy

A long, long time ago, I blogged about the all-glass skywalk being built into the thin air over the Grand Canyon. My comment at the time was "No thank you." But that was just because of personal fear. Overall, the concept is sorta interesting.

It's even more interesting once you find out the venture is, in large part, owned by the Hualapai tribe, who live on a million-acre reservation which includes the south rim of the Canyon. The Hualapai are dirt poor, with an unemployment rate that fluctuates between 50% and 70%, depending on the season. To call the Hualapai situation grim and untenable is stating the obvious.

So, instead of holding their hand out, the Hualapai have looked around and made an assessment of what they have that can generate some employment, some dough, and some hope for them. The Canyon is their one asset. To capitalize on this one asset, the Hualapai have chosen an idea which should have minimal impact on the environment and which is unique in the world. It ought to do pretty well.

What on Earth could be wrong with that?

Well, you've probably already guessed where this is going. Some well-meaning types, including the former superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park, have their knickers in a twist, calling the skywalk a "travesty" which will "tarnish the pristine canyon."

I absolutely love the quote from Hualapai Tribal Council Chairman Charlie Vaughn, who said, "Those people are eating tofu and pilaf and sitting in Phoenix with their plasma-screen TVs. Our tribe started in these canyons. We've always been here, and we'll always be here."

If you're mired in unrelenting poverty, you can wallow in it, or you can do something about it. The Hualapai are doing something about it. I say good for them.

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