The U.S. Forest Service is clearing the way for a sprawling urban development near the southern edge of the Grand Canyon. The development involves more than 2,100 housing units, 3 million square feet of retail space plus hotels, a spa and conference center.
The superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park has said the project is one of the greatest threats to Grand Canyon in the park's 96-year-history of the park.
The proposal — by the Stilo Development Group — would transform the 580-resident community of Tusayan, Arizona, from a quiet tourist town into a sprawling complex of high-end homes, strip malls and resorts only a mile from the park boundary near the southern entrance.
Stilo partnered with the town of Tusayan in order to seek a federal permit to expand road and utility access through public lands in the Kaibab National Forest so development can proceed.
The U.S. Forest Service in mid-April began moving forward with the process to approve the special-use permit despite objections from the park service, park advocates and many environmental groups.
“The Forest Service is putting Grand Canyon National Park in the crosshairs by considering Tusayan’s dangerous, damaging plan for a mega-resort,” said Kevin Dahl of the National Parks Conservation Association. “This proposal is not in the public interest and is one of the greatest threats Grand Canyon National Park has seen in its history. The Forest Service can and should have rejected it out of hand."
The National Park Service considers the mega-development a significant threat to Grand Canyon because it will require vast quantities of water and could lower the aquifer that feeds seeps, springs and streams that support wildlife and recreation on the park’s South Rim.
Groundwater pumping accompanying the development could also lower the aquifer that is the exclusive source of all water for Havasu Falls, the cultural foundation of the Havasupai tribe.