Five members of a non-commercial river trip were arrested at Lee's Ferry, Arizona, on Saturday, January 27, 2007, for possession of controlled substances. The five were part of a group of 14 preparing to launch a 30 day trip rafting through Grand Canyon.
The group was breaking down their camp and awaiting final trip orientation when they were approached by a National Park Ranger at the arrival of Coconino County Sheriff and Arizona Department of Public Safety officers.
The Law enforcement personnel subsequently arrested the five following a search of the group's tents and watercraft with a drug sniffing dog based on a citizen's tip of drug use. The dog detected a small amount of drugs. According to one of the trip participants, 3 ounces of marijuana were seized.
The five people were then taken into custody and appeared before a Page, Arizona judge in separate hearings. It was determined that misdemeanor charges would be brought in all cases and they were released on their own recognizance pending a future court date.
Since National Park Service policy allows any individual who has registered to call in and claim any available trip opening, a remaining member of the group, Mike Grijalva, immediately requested to claim the aborted trip launch. Mr. Grijalva registered to be considered for the lotteries held in the fall of 2006. He was advised by the National Park Ranger on duty that there were no available cancellation dates. The group then re-packed all their gear onto trailers, and returned to Flagstaff, Arizona, in an attempt to salvage the trip.
As of Monday, January 29, 2007, employees at the River Permits office at Grand Canyon National Park confirmed that there were indeed unclaimed river trips on Feb 1, 2 and 4, but Mr. Grijalva was informed by Park officials that none of the trip participants could claim any of the available dates, because of their association with the 5 individuals who were arrested and later released.
"It appears the Park overreacted," notes Jo Johnson of River Runners for Wilderness "and is penalizing people who were not involved in any wrongdoing. Those folks have the same right to a permit as any one else, the launch is available and they are ready to go. It is hard to see the Park's justification for denying them a coveted opportunity to launch based on their association with individuals who may never be convicted of any crime."