Grand Canyon development sparks debate

  The Forest Service says a new 272-acre development near the south entrance of the Grand Canyon can control growth near the park. Critics, including some environmentalists, are not convinced.

"They're creating mass development ... ext to one of our crown jewels," says Sharon Galbreath of the Sierra Club's southwest office.

Canyon Forest Village, which got the Forest Service's final approval Aug. 6, is the result of years of collaboration between the developer, the National Park Service, the Forest Service, Arizona Indian tribes and conservation groups (HCN, 3/2/98). By giving up a dozen scattered inholdings in the Coconino National Forest, developer Tom De Paolo will get public land near the unincorporated town of Tusayan. On this parcel he plans to build employee housing and hotels and restaurants for the 7 million tourists expected to visit the park annually by 2015.

Environmentalists initially balked at De Paolo's plan to tap into scarce groundwater supplies. But when De Paolo agreed to transport water from the Colorado River and include energy efficient systems and a recycling program, he won over many critics.

"This development protects the environment to the maximum extent possible, given development," says Brad Ack of the Grand Canyon Trust, adding that development on the South Rim is inevitable.

The Sierra Club and the Grand Canyon Improvement Association, a coalition of Tusayan businesses that have long fought the development, say they are likely to appeal the project.

*Tim Westby
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