Under the guidance of Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Chris Lehnertz, over a dozen representatives from Grand Canyon National Park met with members of the interested public during an hour and a half long meeting at the Coconino Center for the Arts in Flagstaff, Arizona, on Tuesday evening July 11, 2017.
Chairman Damon Clarke of the Hualapai Nation along with four Hualapai Nation representatives, were also in attendance.
Roughly sixty concerned citizens participated as well. They included do it yourself river runners and their representative organizations including River Runners For Wilderness, river gear rental company owners, river concessions owners, the concessions trade association representative, river guides association representatives, river guides, as well as representatives from at least two environmental organizations.
The meeting began with an introduction from the Superintendent, then moved to a review of the meeting ground rules based on mutual respect, followed by an introduction of the park staff.
At this point, NPS staff moved to various stations about the meeting room. Topic stations included the river unit, business operations, cultural resources, fisheries, and concessions, to name a few. There was no station for boundary issues, but that didn’t stop questions about the Park boundary.
During the week of July 4, 2017, the Hualapai Nation began posting No Trespassing signs on beaches along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. For decades, the Hualapai Nation and Grand Canyon National Park have disagreed about the location of the boundary between the First Nation and the National Park.
The disputed boundary covers a distance of 108.8 river miles, over a third of the length of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The Hualapai Nation claims their boundary with the Park is in the middle of the Colorado River, while the National Park Service claims their boundary with the Hualapai Nation is at the historic high water line.
Caught in the middle of this dispute are roughly 25,000 river runners who yearly float the Colorado River in Grand Canyon and use the area between the high water line and the middle of the river.
The disputed area includes over forty riverside camps, including National Canyon, 209 and Pumpkin Spring to name a few, plus a few riverside stops, such as Three Springs and the left scout at Lava Falls rapid.
Chairman Clarke of the Hualapai Nation had a handout for river runners interested in obtaining a camping permit for all river left campsites between 164.5 River Mile and 273.5 River Mile on river left. The handout noted river runners can call 928-769-2227 and state the camp or camps they would like to make a reservation for. According to Hualapai representatives, the fee is $30 per person per night and is a camping permit only, not a hiking permit.
The Chairman and his staff were quick to state that river runners who are scouting rapids, such as Lava Falls on river left, do not need a permit to scout.
Superintendent Lehnertz stated the National Park Service would not provide river runners with legal representation should they find themselves in Tribal court if they were found camping on river left without a Hualapai camping permit.
It was also mentioned by Tribal officials that the NO TRESPASSING signs the Hualapai Nation had recently placed along the river had all been vandalized and had disappeared.
Some attendees thought the meeting was a great success, getting people “out of their trenches” on neutral ground to learn from each other and attempt to sort through some issues.
Superintendent Lehnertz noted this was the first of a number of such meeting to be held throughout the year.
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