Residents slam Grand Canyon’s Skywalk

Operational problems and visitors’ disappointment with the much-hyped Skywalk 240 miles west of Grand Canyon National Park has sparked national criticism from visitors and media.It is now raising concerns among the canyon’s South Rim area residents and businesses that the new attraction is more of a curse than a blessing for the region.

A recent Denver Post article, TripAdvisor.com as well as other travel sites have detailed criticisms ranging from a lack of shelter from the blazing Arizona sun, unpredictable attraction hours, no bathroom facilities, no water and an unimpressive view of a side canyon—all of which have been heard by South Rim businesses and residents, creating major concern that Skywalk turning the state’s most beloved asset into a disappointment.

“First they rob you with the $50 bus ride,” explained one angry visitor, “and then the platform itself is so, well, it was not at all what they said it was or what the brochure drawings show.”

The visitor added that the platform is not suspended 4,000 feet above the Colorado River as the brochure and website claim. “The river is way off in the distance,” he said. “And the cliff comes out at an angle so most of the time the rocks are just 300 or 400 feet beneath you. ... We’re going to ask for some of our money back.”

The trip to reach the site itself has also come under intense criticism and has been described as, “the eyeball-rattling drive back toward civilization—if you call Kingman, Ariz., civilization—on a 14-mile washboard-rutted dirt road.”

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“The only good thing about any of this,” said visitor Paul Harriss, trying to hide his first grin of the afternoon, “is that we will drive that horrible road in a rented car.”

Nearby residents agree and are becoming increasingly alarmed by the potential long-term impact of the negative experiences.

“By going to Skywalk people think they are going to the real Grand Canyon. They are not,” 35-year Grand Canyon resident and business owner Clarinda Vail said. “Skywalk is a 240 mile drive from the Grand Canyon National Park. By showing up at a glorified side canyon and then having things not open or disappoint, as this and other articles have described, is terrible for regional tourism. It’s comparable to a restaurant in a food court opening with really bad food or someone thinking they are going to experience Bellagio only to wind up at the Barbary Coast. It will disappoint and ultimately hurt business and the lure of the Grand Canyon for everyone.”

“In my 35 years I have yet to hear one person who hiked in Grand Canyon National Park, witnessed the unsurpassed view of the Canyon and the Colorado River, come away disappointed. Because they have misled people about the location of Skywalk, bad word of mouth won’t just hurt the Hualapais, it will hurt all of us in northern Arizona,” Vail said.

Vail noted the contrast between her community’s successful fight in the late 1990s against a massive, Italian-financed development called “Canyon Forest Village” adjacent to the South Rim boundary of Grand Canyon National Park, as well as the natural, authentic Grand Canyon experience the Havasupai Tribe provides for visitors to the region. The Havasupai Tribe is located between the Hualapai Tribe and Grand Canyon National Park.
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