River concessionaires, operating at the behest of Grand Canyon National Park, are selling public access to the Colorado River in Grand Canyon with the help of Costco and eBay. Various marketing channels have attempted to fill at least a portion of unused commercial seats for years, while public access to a permit system to raft the river without the use of river concessionaires was stopped two years ago. To see the bargains offered on access the do-it-yourself paddler does not have, check the Costco Online website. On eBay, the trips are even cheaper for a variety of dates at the Grand Canyon auction, indicating once again that concessionaires are hustling to "unload" their allocated trips.
Grand Canyon National Park officials are poised to release the first complete review of recreational rafting on the river in late August or early September, but little will change to address this problem, notes Tom Martin, Co-Director of the national organization River Runners for Wilderness.
"Vigorously discounting empty seats while the self reliant public is denied access is not what the founders of the National Parks envisioned" notes Martin. "An unbiased NEPA review conducted today, given the ever growing demand for non-commercial paddling, would never allow such huge blocks of wilderness access to go to concession services.
The park's river concessions never went through a NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) review when the park's superintendent made 21 companies into river concessions in 1972. This legally mandated NEPA review requires concessions services to be provided only when-and at the level-proved through the review to be "necessary and appropriate."
"Our parks are about preserving our American heritage, which includes preserving the do-it-yourself frontier spirit of discovery. The selling of commercial seats at Costco and eBay while those folks seeking to discover our heritage on their own are kept out certainly doesn't pass the National Park smell test, either" he added.
"Marketing through these sites while noncommercial river runners endure long waits or no access at all marks a new low" says Martin, who predicts the park will further limit public river runners by allowing limited access through a once-a-year lottery for one launch date, erecting yet another barrier for noncommercial river runners while the park's river concessions "take cuts" and try to sell their empty river trips through discount web-based marketing tactics.