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March 5, 2007

Grand Canyon Skywalk — Episode 2: It's finally ready


You may recall that back on January 3, 2006 news of this epic project reached our virtual shores and was duly noted here.

Since that time I've received many enquiries as to when and if it will ever be finished and open (completion was scheduled for summer 2006).

In yesterday's New York Times Travel section "In Transit" feature, Jennifer Conlin reported that two weeks from tomorrow — Tuesday, March 20, 2007 — the second man on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, will lead the first walk across Skywalk.

The article follows.

    Ex-Astronaut Will Be Among First on the Grand Canyon Walkway

    On March 20, the second man on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin, will lead the first walk across Skywalk, the cantilevered glass semicircular walkway that juts out 70 feet over the Grand Canyon and 4,000 feet above the Colorado River in Arizona.

    The walkway, which will open to the public on March 28, is made of two million pounds of glass and steel and cost more than $30 million to construct. It is the centerpiece of a development plan called Grand Canyon West. The group behind the project — which will include a 6,000-square-foot visitors center, with a museum, a movie theater, a gift shop and several restaurants — is the Hualapai Indian tribe, which also has a reservation on the million acres of land they own on the western rim of the canyon.

    The reservation, 242 miles east of Grand Canyon National Park, which has 4.1 million visitors a year, had fewer than 300,000 visitors last year, 90 percent of them from helicopter and airplane package tours and ground tours.

    “Most people didn’t even know this area existed,” said Allison Raskansky, director of marketing for Grand Canyon West. She also said that the tribe would continue to operate the only one-day whitewater-rafting trip through the canyon.

    Although the project is expected to bring more tourists and revenue to the small reservation, which has only 2,000 residents and unemployment that reaches 70 percent in the off-season, environmentalists worry that it will be a blemish on the natural beauty of the canyon.

    “Our position on all development in the canyon is to keep it away,” said Sandy Bahr, a spokeswoman for the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club. “The Hualapai tribe owns the land and can do what they want, but we prefer to let the canyon speak for itself.”

    Besides the skywalk, visitors will also be able to visit Grand Canyon West’s Indian Village, with authentic dwellings built by five tribes; the Hualapai Market, where local artisans demonstrate their crafts; and the Ranch, a Western town with wagon and horseback rides along the canyon’s rim.

    Sheri Yellowhawk, chief executive of the Grand Canyon Resort Corporation, which is owned by the Hualapai tribe, of which she is a member, said: “It is not like we are building a ride. The tourist center is made of materials that match the canyon and will look like rock. It is also in a side canyon, out of view.”

    The Skywalk will be open from dawn to dusk with a maximum of 120 people allowed on it at any one time. Tickets will cost $25 a person in addition to a Grand Canyon West entry fee. Reservations are recommended; www.destinationgrandcanyon.com.

March 5, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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