Mules in Grand Canyon National Park. They can be a bane, and they can be a beast of burden that makes your trek down into the chasm somewhat easier. Now park officials want to know if mules should continue to be utilized in the Grand Canyon.
Folks who have more than a few hikes down into the canyon can speak harshly of mules, largely for the mess they make with their urine on the trails but also for the spacing of steps in the trails to accommodate the beasts. But mules no doubt have made the canyon accessible for folks who otherwise wouldn't have ventured down the trail.
So what do you think? Grand Canyon officials are now accepting comments on mule operations and stock use in the park as they begin to develop an environmental assessment. The presence and use of mules in and around the canyon is a long-standing tradition and one that the park would like to continue.
But park officials also are interested in continuing to provide opportunities for stock use in a manner that is sustainable. This planning effort will address the following management objective identified in the park’s 1995 General Management Plan: “Where livestock and visitors share the same trails and areas, minimize conflicts and resource impacts, and enhance safety.”
The planning process will consider the following:
* Commercial and private stock use (including horses, mules, and burros) throughout the park.
* Appropriate levels of stock use on park trails.
* Appropriate locations for stock use in the park, which may include: keeping commercial stock use on the North Kaibab Trail down to Supai Tunnel; moving stock use to one of the South Rim corridor trails (Bright Angel or South Kaibab); keeping stock use on the Uncle Jim Trail, Whitmore Trail, and select corridor trails; initiation of a concession-operated day ride on the South Rim; the need for new stock facilities or modification to existing facilities on the North and South Rim, including compliance with laws and regulations for mule health and safety.
The Park Service encourages public participation through the National Environmental Policy Act (commonly known as NEPA) process during which the public has two opportunities to formally comment on the project – once during initial project scoping and again following release of the EA which is expected this fall. The NPS is currently in the scoping phase of this project and invites the public to submit their comments in a variety of ways during the next 30 days.
Three open house meetings are scheduled in June where Grand Canyon National Park staff will be available to answer questions and take comments on stock use in the park. Meeting dates and locations are as follows:
June 2, 4-7 PM (Arizona Time) – Flagstaff Public Library, 300 W Aspen Avenue, Flagstaff, Arizona
June 3, 4-6 PM (Arizona Time) – Community Building, Room B, South Rim Village, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
June 4, 4-7 PM (Utah Time) – Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Kanab Visitor’s Center, 745 East Highway 89, Kanab, Utah
You may also submit written comments on this web site or by mailing them to: Steve Martin, Superintendent, Grand Canyon National Park, Attn: Mule Operations and Stock Use EA, P.O. Box 129 (1 Village Loop for express, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023 by June 22, 2009.
The park expects to prepare an EA this summer, with a decision document for this project anticipated in December, 2009. Additional information about this project can be found at this web site or by contacting Rachel Stanton, Project Planning Lead, at (928) 774-9612.