Posted below in its entirety is an e-mail announcement by the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association (GCROA) regarding the recent Colorado River Management Planning announcement by Grand Canyon National Park. The GCROA is a trade association representing the 16 river concessions contractors in Grand Canyon National Park. The following are a few highlights from the e-mail:
"The CRMP revision will specify who gets to go on Grand Canyon river trips in the future. A common argument voiced by young private boaters, who want to take trips away from professionally-outfitted passengers to use for themselves, is that people who need or prefer the services of a professional outfitter "don't deserve" Grand Canyon river trips."
According to River Runners For Wilderness (www.rrfw.org), the 1998 Shelby Hall study http://www.research.vt.edu/resmag/resmag2001/grand_canyon.html notes the average age of Grand Canyon river runners is 43, with only a few years separating the non-commercial from commercial river runners. Grand Canyon River Concessions have 75% of the Canyon's access, while the do-it-yourself visitors have the remainder. There are over 7000 do-it-yourself permits pending to raft the Grand Canyon. At present, river outfitters do not want to share any of their majority access with anyone else, young or old, even though 45 percent of commercial boaters have family incomes of more than $100,000. Only 12% of the countries families are in this earning bracket. "I've been active in this issue for over 6 years, and no one I've spoken with is saying anything about concessions passengers not deserving access to Grand Canyon Trips" noted Tom Martin, RRFW Grand Canyon Coordinator. "On the contrary, the American public needs low cost concessions services, because the average American can not afford the river concessionaires prices. On top of that, most concessions passengers I've spoken with agree the split allocation system is unfair to everyone involved."
The GCROA e-mail also states:
"This year, as for each of the past fifteen years, about 19,000 visitors will enjoy a professionally-outfitted Grand Canyon river experience. Proposals now under consideration by the National Park Service may reduce this visitation to as little as 9,000 or even 7,000 per year."
According to Martin, the river concessions use is provided in 10 year long government contracts. Martin is uncertain as to how many concessions passengers actually enjoy their trips. "I hear a lot of concessions passengers complaining about the price of the concessions trips" notes Martin. Not only that, but I've seen some really exciting proposals that would actually increase the American publics access to the river and at the same time, most critical for River Runners For Wilderness, embrace motor-free Wilderness management."
Finally, the GCROA e-mail notes:
"For five decades, inflatable rafts powered by small outboard motors have plied the Colorado River within Grand Canyon National Park. Such watercraft make a full Grand Canyon river trip possible in six to eight days. Today, this is the trip of choice for three out of four visitors. Yet some want to ban motors and replace all such trips with a much smaller number of thirteen to sixteen day trips."
Martin responds that 25 horsepower motors are not small, especially in the proposed wilderness of the World Heritage Site that is Grand Canyon National Park. "The majority of concessions passengers are on 6 day trips only going 2/3 of the way through the Canyon. America is being sold out on the last 1/3 of the river, and certainly is not receiving a "full Grand Canyon river trip." "I'll agree with GCROA that 3/4 of the concessions trips are motorized, but only because the 10 year concessions contracts are written that way. The concessions contracts demand that 3/4 of the concessions trips be motorized. We have no way whatsoever of knowing what the concessions passenger really wants in Grand Canyon with regards to craft type. Right now, concessions passengers only option is to go on a fast motorized trip 3 out of ever 4 trips, and pay a lot of money to boot. It would appear GCROA is championing choice, the concessionaires choice. The present concessions system continues to rigidly hang on to the past. We need to be forward thinking about this, with lots of increased choices and flexibility built into the management plan. This is Grand Canyon after all."
The following is the GCROA e-mail:
National Park Service Invites Public Participation in Colorado River Planning Process
Public Comment Period Announced June 14, 2002
Dear Grand Canyon River News Subscriber:
Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Joseph F. Alston announced yesterday the resumption of the Colorado River Management Plan (CRMP) revision process and the opening of a sixty-day public comment period. The CRMP is the official management document that governs access to and activities within the Colorado River corridor within Grand Canyon National Park. This plan covers all aspects of recreational river running in the Grand Canyon. The new CRMP will dictate how the American public is able to visit and interact with the Grand Canyon via river trips for the next ten to fifteen years. For the next sixty days, Grand Canyon National Park will accept public comments on these and many other river-related issues:
-the appropriate level of visitor use along the Colorado River;
-the allocation of that use between professionally-outfitted and self-outfitted groups;
-whether low-powered motorized pontoon rafts should be banned;
-the non-commercial river trip permitting system;
-the level of motorized versus non-motorized use (if motorized use remains);
-the range of professionally-outfitted services provided to the public.
Toward the end of the summer, the National Park Service will also conduct a series of meetings in Flagstaff, AZ; Phoenix, AZ; Salt Lake City, UT; Denver, CO; and Las Vegas, NV to hear from the public. The schedule for these meetings will be announced shortly.
CITIZEN INVOLVEMENT IS CRITICAL
Here are a few of the issues we hope you will care about. Who Gets to Go? The CRMP revision will specify who gets to go on Grand Canyon river trips in the future. A common argument voiced by young private boaters, who want to take trips away from professionally-outfitted passengers to use for themselves, is that people who need or prefer the services of a professional outfitter "don't deserve" Grand Canyon river trips. How Much Public Access? This year, as for each of the past fifteen years, about 19,000 visitors will enjoy a professionally-outfitted Grand Canyon river experience. Proposals now under consideration by the National Park Service may reduce this visitation to as little as 9,000 or even 7,000 per year. How Long Is Your Vacation? For five decades, inflatable rafts powered by small outboard motors have plied the Colorado River within Grand Canyon National Park. Such watercraft make a full Grand Canyon river trip possible in six to eight days. Today, this is the trip of choice for three out of four visitors. Yet some want to ban motors and replace all such trips with a much smaller number of thirteen to sixteen day trips.
PLEASE LEND YOUR VOICE
The Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association encourages you to get involved in the CRMP revision process. Learn about the issues and mail your comments directly to the park at "CRMP Project," Grand Canyon National Park, P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ, 86023. In the coming weeks, we will offer additional news updates and information on issues, and about when and how you can most effectively participate in this important decision-making process. For more information about the planning process and the issues, please visit www.gcroa.org. National Park Service information about the CRMP revision process can be found at www.nps.gov/grca/crmp. To place yourself on the park's CRMP Newsletter mailing list, mail a request with your e-mail address to firstname.lastname@example.org. To view the National Park Service News Announcement, go here. (This is a .pdf file that requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader to open and view.) In the coming weeks, look for additional information about the issues and the process coming from this Grand Canyon River News Bulletin Service. Please take a few minutes to consider the issues and get involved. The Grand Canyon's future is yours to make!
This Grand Canyon river news update was brought to you by the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association, a non-profit trade group whose members include the sixteen professional river outfitters who provide public whitewater rafting trips in Grand Canyon National Park. Formed in 1996, GCROA works with the public and the media to provide information and to answer questions about Grand Canyon river running and related issues. Please visit www.gcroa.org for more information.