Group Allowed to Launch

Members of a non-commercial river party who had their permit revoked shortly before their scheduled launch on January 27, 2007 have been able to claim an unused permit.

The group had originally intended to launch from Lee's Ferry, Arizona, for a thirty day rafting trip through Grand Canyon to South Cove at Lake Mead. On the morning the group was to launch, the river runners were approached by law enforcement officials and a drug-sniffing dog. The dog detected drug paraphernalia and according to a trip participant, three ounces of marijuana were seized.

Five of the trip's members were taken into custody and appeared before a judge that afternoon in Page, Arizona. Misdemeanor possession charges were brought against all five individuals, who were released on their own recognizance pending a future court date.

Despite the National Park Service's policy which allows any individual who has registered to call in and claim any available trip opening, a remaining member of the group, Mike Grijalva, was denied when he immediately requested to claim the aborted trip launch. Mr. Grijalva had previously registered for the lotteries held in the fall of 2006 and was eligible to claim any unclaimed or cancelled date.

The group was assured by the River Permits Office on the following Monday that there were unclaimed river trips on Feb 1, 2 and 4. However, Mr. Grijalva was again denied one of these permits on the basis of his association with the 5 individuals who were arrested and later released.

One of the river party members called Senator Harry Reid's office, and one of his staff contacted Grand Canyon National Park officials on his behalf. Subsequent negotiations between Senator Reid's office and Grand Canyon National Park officials today resulted in Mr. Grijalva being awarded an unclaimed launch date for February 2, 2007.

According to Mr. Grijalva, his initial request was to include all the trip participants, but the Park Service was hesitant to allow this due to the earlier infraction. Mr. Grijalva then requested that the nine individuals not charged in the initial investigation be allowed to participate in the new launch and this request was granted.

"It's a shame the folks who were not implicated were initially denied even when they followed park procedures," said Tom Martin, Co-Director of River Runners for Wilderness. "It shouldn't take Congressional intervention to get them what they are perfectly entitled to as citizens."