As part of the newly completed Colorado River Management Plan, officials at Grand Canyon National Park are in the beginning phases of implementing a Visitor Experience Monitoring Program. The program is intended to monitor the impacts of the new river management plan, as well as look at what may require additional study. Of interest is how commercial and noncommercial river runners on The Colorado River in Grand Canyon are impacted by various aspects of their visit, for example, other people encountered at camps, at attraction sites and on the river.
Grand Canyon National Park will be conducting the visitor experience study using existing data from earlier social impact surveys conducted in the 1970's and 1990's, according to Doug Whittaker of Confluence Research, the private company contracted to do the research. New studies will include both on-river and attraction site studies from Lee's Ferry to South Cove, and include seasonal variation surveys as well, and will be conducted throughout the year.
Public outreach about the Visitor Experience Monitoring Program will include both information to be posted on Grand Canyon National Park's website and in a public meeting to be held in Flagstaff, Arizona. According to Mary Orton of The Mary Orton Company, the contractor conducting the Park's public planning meetings, the date and location for this meeting is Tuesday, February 13th, from 7:00PM to 9:00PM, at the Radisson Woodlands Hotel at 1175 W Route 66. River Runners for Wilderness will soon release more information about the meetings and any date or time changes announced by the Park.
Orton notes that while not an official NEPA process, individuals will be able to comment on the monitoring program via e-mail without attending the public meeting throughout the month of February.
Besides monitoring the visitor experience, additional resource and cultural impact monitoring will also be conducted. It is unclear at this time if public meetings will be held for the resource and cultural impact monitoring programs.
The new river plan is being challenged in court by River Runners for Wilderness over the lack of wilderness protection and the inequitable access between concessionaires and do-it-yourself river runners. The Grand Canyon River Outfitters Trade Association and Private Boaters Association have intervened in the litigation against RRFW's challenge.