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Dennis Brownridge replies

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Christa Sadler has repeated park officials' claims about what the proposed plan would do. However, a careful reading of the entire document and unpublished supporting studies, and hard questioning of park staffers, reveals that the plan is "not as advertised."

Addressing some of Ms. Sadler's specific interpretations:

* The plan would not encourage people to "get off their butts' or out of vehicles. On the contrary, visitors would have to spend much more time in vehicles (with 100 other tourists), or waiting in line for vehicles, or fighting for a parking space, than they do now;

* No existing public roads would be closed to motor vehicles or converted to trails. The plan encourages increased traffic on all but a tiny fraction of park roads;

* The proposed tourist trails that environmentalists object to are in high-quality, unspoiled, roadless rim areas classified as Primitive or Threshold Wilderness under the existing Backcountry Management Plan: Atoko Point to Naji Point on the North Rim, and Pinal to Papago Point on the South Rim.

Environmental organizations support some elements of the plan but strongly criticize its fundamental purpose, which is to vastly increase the number of tourists on the overlooks and trails. As an alternative, they endorse an immediate limit on the number of visitors and an extension of the existing reservation system to day use. Some park officials agree, but the idea was deleted from the plan because of heavy political pressure from the tourist industry. n

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