Glass Skywalk Extended Over Grand Canyon

Tourists who pay $74.95 will soon be able to enjoy a walk 'over' the Grand Canyon, with the money providing needed income for the Hualapai Indian Tribe.

The Skywalk rolled out over the Grand Canyon on March 6 and will be open to the public on March 28. Tribal member Don Havatone says, "One of the purposes of developing the Skywalk is to create economic opportunities for tribal members. This is a way to build something for ourselves and our kids." Other tribal members, like Leatrice Walema, disagree: "Our ancestors roamed this land before us. This is holy ground. Most of our elders disapprove of this, but the council members approved it before the community voted on it. It was hidden (from us)."

Las Vegas entrepreneur David Jin and silent investors financed the $30 million skyway in exchange for 25% of proceeds from visitor fees. "The Skywalk is at Eagle Point, a five-minute bus ride from Grand Canyon West. Future plans include construction of a tri-level, 6,000-square-foot visitor center with museum, movie theater, restaurants, lounges and bars, as well as a gift shop. The Skywalk was designed by M.R.J. Architects, with glass for the structure provided by Saint-Gobain, a German company."

Full Story: Skywalk marks a new era

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Grand Canyon West planning

The Grand Canyon Skywalk constitutes a small part of 9,000 acres set aside in the mid-90's by the Hualapai Tribal Council for economic development purposes. The master plan at Grand Canyon West (123 miles from Las Vegas, NV) calls for 89% open space preservation and 11% commercial development, with projects ranging from a new airport terminal, a health and wellness center, and a destination resort. The Hualapai have vested economic development oversight in the Grand Canyon Resort Corporation, a tribally-owned corporation, and at the outset of the planning process, GCRC established planning criteria for the 9,000 acres aimed at balancing economic development initiatives with cultural expression, environmental preservation and governmental regulations both internal to the Tribe and external in relation to FAA and NPS oversight. In my discussions with planners and designers regarding Grand Canyon West and the Skywalk, the topic of "pristine" wilderness is often a point of discussion, and it is my opinion that standing mid-air in total silence on a Glass Skywalk is no better or worse than floating mid-stream in the Colorado River on a non-motorized boat. Both experiences allow one to interact with the Canyon, with marginal impacts. The Skywalk is perched on a fraction of the Grand Canyon rim and is barely visible from the Colorado River. The architectural designs for the facility that will be built adjacent to the Skywalk convey a faux-rock finish that will also blend with the immediate physical context. While the Skywalk will continue to draw mixed response from tourists, some ethusiastically for it and some adamently opposed, it beats the overcrowded scenario at the South Rim's Grand Canyon Village any day of the week. If anything, the experience at the South Rim is akin to a zoo. The challenge faced by the Hualapai Tribe and GCRC working together will be to control visitation levels and the quality of the tourism experience as development at Grand Canyon West moves forward. Ultimately, the implementation of their master plan will introduce a reasonable range of services that will provide their community with sustainable economic livelihood.

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