On November 4, 2003, river concessions owners, their spouses, warehouse personnel, river guides, Hualapai Tribal members, representatives from the river outfitters trade association and National Park Service employees met at Albright Training Academy for the annual NPS-river concessions meeting. Nick Hardigg, Chief of Concessions Management, Grand Canyon National Park, advised the group of 54 that the park had received two requests from non-concessioner representatives to observe the meeting. RRFW was formally denied attendance at the November, 2002 and was turned away from the November 2003 meeting.
According to Grand Canyon historian and author Jeff Ingram, non-participatory public observers were once allowed to attend these meetings. That they are now excluded bothers public advocacy group River Runners for Wilderness. "We have asked to observe for the past two years, and have been denied." said Tom Martin, River Runners Co-Director. "We are amazed that the park would exclude the interested public, as the issues discussed directly affect all river runners. Excluding the public is a disservice to all river runners. Spouses, trade association representatives, river guides, warehouse managers and Native American tribal representatives are all allowed to participate, but the public is turned away."
RRFW has learned that the November topics discussed included a review of river accidents, including Norovirus illnesses, increases in river concessions rates, patrol trip contacts and frequency, availability of rescue helicopters, along with appropriate ways to contact the NPS during river incidents. Other topics included a Phantom Ranch Update on duffel service for river passengers and other Ranch improvements, cultural resource issues presentation, Colorado River Fund project review, and a review of the Cooperative Resource Conservation Program. This program uses river concessions to provide access to the canyon for scientists via chartered commercial river trips.
The group was informed the NPS would not discuss the Colorado River Management Plan, and one attendee was noted to say "We're not going to ask questions, since they cannot be answered." Park Service staff did read material aloud that is posted on the Park web site.
Representatives of the Hualapai Nation reviewed an incident between a concessions guide and non-concessions Hualapai guides at Diamond Creek. This incident resulted in the closure of the Diamond Creek take-out to all non-Hualapai activities between the hours of 7:00 am and 10:00 am daily. When asked by a concessioner whether there was the potential to coordinate use rather than have such a large daily prohibition of use, Hualapai representatives were optimistic that some sort of agreement could be scheduled between the concessionaires and the tribe. "It would be great if the non-commercial river runners could schedule with the Hualapai as well" noted Martin. "We will continue to seek cooperative ways to work with Grand Canyon National Park so that in the future the interested public will be able to attend these important meetings.