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Tourist Skywalk not so grand

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_5480493 editorial Tourist Skywalk not so grand By The Denver Post Article Launched: 03/21/2007 01:00:00 AM MDT Perched
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 25, 2007
      http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_5480493

      editorial
      Tourist Skywalk not so grand

      By The Denver Post
      Article Launched: 03/21/2007 01:00:00 AM MDT

      Perched ominously on the west rim of the Grand Canyon, the much-hyped
      Skywalk was inaugurated Tuesday. It's a $30 million tourist trap that mars
      one of the planet's astounding natural landmarks.

      The glass-bottomed observation deck juts 70 feet from the edge of the
      canyon. It offers a view 4,000 feet down to the canyon floor - a vantage
      point twice as high as the world's tallest building.

      It's being touted as an engineering marvel, but we're among those who are
      suspicious that the contraption will stand the test of time.

      The horseshoe-shaped deck is secured with 46-foot anchors drilled into the
      limestone rim to hold it in place. It is equipped with shock absorbers to
      keep it from bouncing like a diving board.

      Hualapai tribal leaders hope to entice tourists to take a $25 stroll over
      the edge of the canyon atop the 4-inch-thick glass walkway. Hualapai
      leaders say a third of their 2,200 members live in poverty and they need
      the tourist dollars. Many tribes have used gambling casinos as a major
      source of revenue, but the Hualapai's remote location undermined any such
      effort. Not that this is truly a Hualapai effort. Las Vegas businessman
      David Jin put up the money in exchange for a cut of the profits.

      The Hualapai's million acres of land border about 100 miles on the west
      side of the canyon, roughly 90 miles from the main portion of Grand Canyon
      National Park on the south rim of the canyon. The park draws 4 million
      visitors a year.

      Up to now, the reservation has gotten only about 300,000 visitors a year,
      partly because they must navigate curving, unpaved roads and rugged terrain
      to get to the canyon's edge.

      The Skywalk is scheduled to open to the general public on March 28.

      For those of us who look at the skywalk and see a huge eyesore, perhaps we
      need not wait long for nature to take its course.

      Delores Honta, a Hualapai tribal member, believes the walkway's lifespan is
      only 15 to 20 years. "Our ground is very dry. It will not stay together.
      You're drilling holes and letting hot and cold air into it," she told
      National Geographic News.

      In the same article, Mark Johnson of Las Vegas-based MRJ Architects,
      designer of the walkway, said that the rock wall, not the walkway's design,
      is the wild card that could determine the Skywalk's life span.

      "At that height, the wall is made of 350 million-year-old limestone -
      porous material that is highly prone to erosion," the article said.

      Millions of years of erosion, of course, is what have created the unspoiled
      beauty of the Grand Canyon.
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