Updated: Budgeting At Grand Canyon National Park Is Not Always As Simple As You Might Think

In a park with many uses -- mule rides, backpacking, river running -- budgeting to meet needs at Grand Canyon National Park is not always easy or simple. Top photo by Cecil Stoughton, National Park Service Historic Photograph Collection; middle photo NPS; bottom photo, Mark Lellouch, NPS.

Editor's note: This rewords the 15th paragraph to reflect that park officials did not say most comments received on the environmental assessment spoke in favor of above-the-rim rides over Inner Gorge rides.

The recent debate over mule rides in Grand Canyon National Park has left park officials, who say they have to live within their budgets and the public's desires, strongly criticized by mule backers, who say trail impacts might be less of an issue if park managers were smarter with how they spend their money.

Unfortunately for outsiders, fully understanding National Park Service budgeting is not always an easy task. There are funds dedicated to specific aspects of a park's operations, overlapping assignments that can make it difficult to tease out how much is spent on a specific area, and, among other things, funds that must be spent within a specific time-frame.

These challenges can be found in just about every one of the 394 units of the National Park System, which makes the following a helpful primer for those trying to understand how spending decisions sometimes are made in their favorite parks.

When Grand Canyon officials in March 2010 embarked on an environmental assessment to help chart the future of livestock use in the park, they pointed out that "an annual budget of approximately $3 million is needed to adequately maintain the park’s corridor trails; however, the park only receives between $1.5 and $2 million annually through entrance fees, concessions franchise fees and other sources for trail maintenance and repair."

"Additionally," they continued, "deferred maintenance costs on inner canyon corridor trails currently exceeds $24 million (GRCA PAMP 2006) – unless management actions are taken in the near future, trails will continue to fall into disrepair and deferred maintenance costs will continue to increase."

The uproar over the park's eventual decision to restrict public mule rides down to Phantom Range in the park's Inner Gorge to 10 mules per day along the Bright Angel Trail, and 10 a day from Phantom Ranch to the South Rim via the South Kaibab Trail, got me wondering about the trail maintenance funding woes, and how easily it might be to move money from another area to help meet those needs.

Since river trips down the Colorado River are a main attraction of the Grand Canyon and require more than a little attention from the park to manage, I figured that'd be a good place to look into the funding quagmire. What I found out is that nothing is entirely cut-and-dried when it comes to park funding.

For starters, Grand Canyon National Park currently spends about $1.4 million a year on river operations -- the permitting office, river patrols, concessions program, rangers staffing the put-in and takeout, environmental audits, and fee collections from river trips, just to name the most obvious tasks.

To cover that $1.4 million, the park receives a little more than $200,000 for river operations in its base funding from Congress, according to park spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge. Another $600,000 or so comes from private user fees, she added, and the balance -- some $500,000 -- comes from concession fees.

“That pays for us to administer that operation," she said, "and that, too, pays for a ranger at Lee’s Ferry (the put-in), it pays for a ranger at Meadview (the takeout), it pays for river patrol operations."

And often those river patrols are multi-purpose, Ms. Oltrogge continued, explaining that while there might be a river ranger on the boat, there often might be someone working on Inner Gorge trail maintenance, vegetation studies, or archaeological or fisheries research. As a result, here can be a mingling of park funds traveling in that boat.

"It’s not as clean as you can take it from here without affecting something else. As nice as that would be, you just can’t do that," said Ms. Oltrogge.

Indeed, added Barclay Trimble, the Grand Canyon's deputy superintendent for business services, the money generated by river trips has to be spent on river management.

“All the stuff that comes from cost recovery from the privates (trips), that has to be spent on the resources that are being used to generate those fees. So that really can’t be reallocated at all," he said.

As to the furor over just 10 mule rides a day, park officials pointed out that current use patterns overwhelmingly show there are more hikers in the canyon than mule trips. Nearly 200 comments were received on the draft EA, they said in their synopsis, and "a wide variety of comments were received and a majority supported retention of at least some level of stock use in the park." By making more above-the-rim mule rides available, the park was responding to public demand, the officials said.

"I would say we're providing an opportunity for a bigger population, a bigger visitation base, to have that experience" of a mule ride atop the South or North rims, rather than in canyon's Inner Gorge, Mr. Trimble said during an earlier conversation. "We have had several comments over many, many, many years ... about a need for some above the rim. Not everybody wants to spend a full day going down into the canyon, baking in the sun, and coming back out.”

“The opportunity is still there, we are still providing mules down into Phantom Ranch and the North Rim is providing a ride down into the canyon," he added.

In an editorial endorsing the park's preferred livestock plan, the Arizona Daily Sun pointed to the disparity between the numbers of hikers and mule riders in the canyon.

In truth, it hasn't been the mule rides that have increased dramatically but the number of hikers -- hundreds of thousands now use the Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails each year. The two groups have combined to wear out the trails much faster than they can be repaired, resulting in a $20 million backlog of repairs.

But because there are no other viable trail corridors into Phantom Ranch, something had to give, and it was clear that the visitor experiences of 300,000 annual hikers were going to outweigh those of 10,000 mule riders. Deeply rutted trails filled with mule dung and urine, combined with rules of the road that give mule trains priority -- even when they step on a hiker's foot -- made it a foregone conclusion that some of the mules would have to go.

The move to fewer mules in the Grand Canyon is a changing of the recreational guard. While mules long have been associated with the canyon -- Brighty, anyone? -- the demand for mule rides into the canyon at a minimum seems to be slackening, while the influx of hikers determined to hoof it with their gear on their back is climbing.

Under today's budgeting scenario, something had to give, and park officials went into their deliberations with one certainty, as Ms. Oltrogge pointed out during our conversation.

“No matter what decision you make, you’re going to have people happy with it and people who are not," she said.

Comments

I see allot of damage to trails done by rain water, Trail crews from NPS did not put correct water bars in place to prevent this erosion, And now its blamed on Mules ? These trails were developed for mule rides, not hikers, is anyone aware of how much trash is and has been picked up by wranglers that were discarded by hikers ? At least Mules and mule riders don't leave toilet paper and plastic wrappers on the trails as do hikers,,, Just wait and see what happens when there is no help from wranglers and mules to aid hikers and help with trail work, mule rides in the big ditch are bigger than us all including that girl from New York City that will only visit the Canyon once in her life time, and writes a complaint to NPS about the green stain on her white shoes, For wranglers its a way of life and has molded many familys forever as well as the riders, and what about the mules that can live to 60 and has had there Life taken away, and believe me they like to go instead of being penned up,,, The Mule rides in Grand Canyon is world renowned US icon of historic events and something that brings us back to our roots that we are all proud of as a nation, to see these rides vanish due in part by the doing of one or two selfish people on a ego trip is criminal, This is your public land, and this is the peoples park, NOT NPS, Kind Regards Gordon Smith, Grand Canyon Wrangler 1978,1984,1985,1986, 2005,2006.

With all due respect to Maureen on this there are counter arguments that need to be presented.

As to the furor over just 10 mule rides a day, park officials pointed out that the bulk of the public comments collected during the environmental assessment process were in favor of fewer mules in the canyon and that current use patterns overwhelmingly show there are more hikers in the canyon than mule trips. Public comments showed that most of those who did want to ride mules preferred above-the-rim rides instead of a long, arduous trek into the canyon, the officials said."

I have ALL the public comments submitted during the EA scoping process and I don't agree that the majority were anti-mule. When discussing the issue with the Concession Specialist she had told me that it was about 50/50 and besides, "it wasn't a popularity contest." I
What I saw was actually an edge going to the pro riders side with actually stronger arguments. I also know of a great many ultra Canyon hikers that see the balance with the mule's presence and avoid the often shallow (yes, really) comments from the extremes.
The statement that that the public "preferred the above-the-rim rides instead of a long, arduous trek into the Canyon" belies a lack of understanding or for the sake of argument of the VALUE of personal equity into the adventure. Would the signage along the RIM advertising CELL PHONE guided tours be the next logical replacement for all Inner Canyon adventures?

What the decision makers here chose to not only ignore but also refused to allow at SR was any type of public celebration of the 100th Anniversary (100 YEARS) of Grand Canyon Mule Rides during Superintendent Steve Martin's tenure here at the Canyon or even more puzzling the complete non-observance of 4th of July here at South Rim. I would suggest that both :) are significant dates and represent something that strengthens the public's sense of core values (understatement). What is up with that?

There has always been an "above the Rim ride" at Apache Stables who were quite loud in their objections to the addition of the above the rim ride in the Park. It affected the private business with a drop in ridership and employees needed to provide the rides.
What is the reality of the above the rime ride in the Park is that it is NOT doing well. With several of the people I've spoken with it was disappointing and went so far as to ask for refunds. They were expecting the great adventure the Inner Canyon provides and were disappointed. Even before the reduction in numbers it was typical for the need to book reservations a year in advance.

What is the most troubling when I hear comments from NPS is that it would seem that there is a parallel universe of opinions. While the mule/hiker relationship is very intertwined in so many (positive) ways with the almost complete support of Phantom Ranch, the irreplaceable help TO trail maintenance crews, not to mention how many incidents of assistance to hikers (some in VERY serious trouble) by experienced and equipped mule guides. There are 350 requests for assistance and the 250 helicopter evacuations on average PER YEAR! Searches and sometimes tragic retrievals of, mainly ALL hikers. I personally had one Evac in three years of guiding and that was precautionary only. In the 104 year history of commercial mule rides IN the Canyon there has NOT been one mule related death compared to the 25-30 fatalities in the park EVERY year (around 10 of those deaths are hikers, yearly).

There are more, very concerning, elements to this issue that cannot or should not be voiced publically in the desire to reach a positive outcome where corrections are made and everyone benefits. "Corrections " can be difficult to take but they are better than the alternative. No one's perfect, they say :)!

Rock On, Grand Canyon Mules!
Respectfully,
Rich


Rock on Rich, You have a better way with words than I do,,, By the way, that one time visitor with white shoes could have just watched her step a little better so as to not stain those white Dolce-& Gabbana shoes :),,But if that same gal was ever able to experience graining the mules in the morn and listen to there whimpers and small talk between each other and the guides she would realize just how special these animal are, they really are people to,, they have given there all through the years for the people that wanted to see the inner canyon so I hope just some respect for them will be noted and let them ALL go back home and back to work doing what they love to do, Superintendants come and and go and the bad ones shouldnt have the power to change so many lives and experiences enjoyed so much by many, any one with that kind of power should have to be an elected official by the people, and these NPS people are not, I think its time for that to change, and to Casey Murph, NEVER give up the fight, because this all is very very wrong, and NPS know's it, as for Xantera,they dont back the people who gave them there all, I have no respect for that, Kind Regard's Gordon Smith

Oh, by the way, if it were not for mule rides I wouldnt have my lovely wife and three little girls that Im blessed with, yes my wife was one of my riders, Regards Gordon Smith, Mule Wrangler.

Kurt, nice angle seeing if river ops could help fund other areas. It led to a good observation by park officials that the monies are indeed muddied when it comes to national parks. Every little bit of reportage like this helps point out to public consumers the intricacies and downright difficulties our public lands face in trying to support visitor demands with natural resource realities--all tied together with complicated purse strings.

Mule rides being restricted into the Grand Canyon is sad for both historical reasons and job reasons (hey, that's a living for at least some people). I'd be very curious to see all the public comments available on this, as Rich Granberg mentions. As a lifelong horsewoman who has led thousands of riders on various back- and front-country trails in the Southwest, I have first-hand knowledge of the damage equine hooves do the landscape. And believe me, as Gordon Smith points out, hikers leave a hell of a lot more disgusting trash, do a lot more damage (simply because there are so many more of them), and are often the first to complain about their white shoes getting stained while they're, GASP!, out in nature. Sigh. The mind boggles...but not really.

The Park Service would have a lot more money for the National Parks if they would quit spending money on lawyers to defend run amok employees. How much has been spent on lawyers in the Hubbell case of the Park Service versus Billy Malone? Lawyers do not make the Park Service better! Spend money on making visitors visits more enjoyable, not defending criminal employees so they can get their retirement.

Julie, there are 179 individual comments. You are welcome to copies of the comments. Just message me on Facebook and we can make arrangements. More daylight on this, the better.

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=188057931399

Case study for class?

I am a former mule guide (1981,1982,1989) It's unbelievabable that so many have lost perspective on the importance of the mules, the history of the mules in the canyon, how much the hikers have to enjoy and benefit from due to those mules! They have been a part of the canyon since before it was a park! Teddy Roosevelt would roll over in his grave over even the thought of the mules being removed. While I was a guide I remember all too well hikers complaining about the pit stops the mules had but funny thing is the minute one of them was hurt that mule was God! I personnaly did what was referred to then as a "Drag out" one night and left the mule barn at 11:00 at night to go to the river house to get a gentleman with a sprained ankle. I put myself and my mules out for one hiker in pitch darkness and he found out just how valuable those mules are! Those trails, the bridge, Phantom ranch and the rest houses are all there originally because of those mules! Sad how the hikers and many others seem to forget this. How many people that are not able to hike the canyon have been able to enjoy it's wonders because of the mules? I've seen way more damage left by hikers such as all the trail cutting they do before switch backs and deficating along side the trails as well as all the garbage they leave! I had maybe planned on retiring from what I do now and returning to guide just because it was one of the greatest jobs I ever had and what a shame I wouldn't be able to because some hikers couldn't handle the smell of mule waste or be able to step around it. There were tourists I remember would be at the round corral in the mornings and tell me they came from great distances just to see the mules and watch them head off into the canyon! Can't say that I've ever heard one say they came just to watch a hiker do that! The mules are an icon they ARE the Grand Canyon! I loved my job as a guide and I've hiked the canyon as well and this entire issue is rediculous! There are far greater issues that need to be addressed at the canyon than this! If you were to take a poll all over the world and ask what is most synonymous with the Grand Canyon it would be the mules! Take the mules out and lets see what the hikers will say when their food they buy at Phantom Ranch is too expensive to buy becasue it all had to be flown in or all the toilets cost to use them, and they put a toll booth at the trail head so every hiker has to pay because of the revenue they have lost from the mule riders being gone....come on people pull your head out! What's next...remove the bears and buffalo in yellowstone because some hiker doesn't want to worry about being killed by them? Might as well take Mickey mouse out of Disney land too it is just a rodent ya know! These people that are complaining are the same ones that complain about the american farmer and rancher while their mouth is full and say "I don't know why we need the farmer and rancher we can get what we need at the grocery store!" What a shame this is even in question!
Sincerely, Jess Goodwin, Former Wrangler

Lawyers are with the DOI Office of the Solicitor. They are government employees. The NPS does not pay any extra for lawyers assigned to NPS cases.

Well my goodness, the NPS is watching this post :),, GOOD, Cause I'm making phone call's that go over there head. Well if the last comment is correct, then those Lawyers in the DOI office should be the VERY first to have to find a new job, Mules of the Grand Canyon are far more important than these folks that live off the misfortune of others and put World renowned Mules out of work, Kind Regards , Former Wrangler Gordon Smith

Jan Brewers office will take your call's on this matter- 602-542-4331,, in State 1-800-253-0883,, Utah Gary Herbert 1-801-538-1000 - 1-800-705-2464 God Bless Teddy Roosevelt. Regards Gordon Smith, Former Wrangler.

Wallapi Johny, Uncle Jim Owens, John Wayne and Red Williams. Let them all be in the sweet dreams of NPS, REgards Gordon Smith

So what discretion does a superintendent have in raising and directing (or denying )funds for particular projects? $200 million windfall to IMR region and all of a sudden the Inner Canyon Trail budget has to be sustainable after 60 years of deferred maintenance? What EXACTLY in the PARK is sustainable besides the Supt's family retirement package? Just a question.

I respect the opinions of the mule wranglers and my experience as both a volunteer ranger and hiker is they are very helpful, friendly and skilled people. However the issue is how to pay for the trail maintenance which is caused by the mules hoofs. The issue isn't that hikers discard trash, or large scale trail erosion is caused by improperly installed water bars or hikers boots cause trail damage--come on MAN.
If anyone doubts the damage mule hoofs make on the trails, follow a string of mules down a snow packed trail. The hoofs pull up clumps of snow/frozen ice ranging from the size of a softball to that of a watermelon. On a dry trail, the visibility of the damage takes longer to see but it occurs with every hoof mark. The GCNPS doesn't have the funding to perform proper trail maintenace. Little options were left since Xanterra couldn't fund the money required for proper trail maintenance. I believe I understand the disappointment and economic impact of this decision to the people working in the mule ride business but the greater good must be served. Maintaining Grand Canyon corridor trails safe for visitors.

When the NPS is calculating the cost of maintaining trails, how does it calculate cost incurred by mule trips and cost by 300,000 hikers annually? Is cost due to wear and tear on the trails by hikers, paid for by fees? If it is not, then either the fees should be raised or the number of hikers reduced.

The National Park Service appears to have an elitist pro-hiker and anti-mule prejudice. A study should be done by an outside analyst, not picked by either NPS or the Dept. of the Interior, to properly determine the cost of maintenance due to mule rides and the cost of maintenance due to hikers.

“I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people and I require the same from them.” - John Wayne

I was told by NPS that the cost of the 250 hiker search, rescue evacuations comes from a different pot than the trails budget. The question was not asked about the estimated 500,000 hiking sticks poking holes in the trail every three feet.

Hey Jim, those clumps of snow and ICE that are broken up in the winter are because the mules wear shoes with Tungsten Carbide tipped shoes for traction. Very similar to the instep crampons, Katoolahs or Yak Tracs that hikers use in the winter. I've recently hiked the BA where the trail was extremely dangerous clear down to Three Mile Resthouse. All the hikers chose to walk where the pack mules had etched and broken up the ice rather than the glassy slik clear ice. Point of argument after point of argument against the mule rides are dispelled but the underlying truth is that NPS has NOT done their job but has just sought to propel a bias. Classic in it's misinformation to diminish the yet unaccepted realization of the Ride's importance. Lets see all the books and the underlying performance of the driving force, the just retired superintendent. To much time has been spent on the little brush fires of misinformation. Open it up or should OIG get involved. Correct the mistakes made and usher in a new day without the bias antagonisms.

Eliminate the trails all together and enjoy the view from the rim as god intended...

What does not get referenced usually in the NPS arguments is the,often life changing, experiences to the young and old alike that Ride the mules. It's just assumed that they all can have the same experience by walking. Putting your confidence into something other than your own two feet is transformational if not biblical in it's concept. You have an extremely safe and REAL partner in an awesome place.
Biggest benefit I see in people is that it's bigger than ourselves and not having everything our way is part of the relief and unburdening effect that all adventurers in the Canyon experience in some form. The Grand Canyon is a treasure to the people for the good things it does to us and right now that's a needed commodity:)!

I once wrote a satirical piece for a hiking newsletter suggesting that they cover the Grand Canyon with plexiglass to prevent damage by visitors, and to allow visitors with a fear of heights to enjoy the view safely. Then they put in a glass sidewalk on the West Rim. Oh,the irony!

I can understand the point you're trying to make Jim but in due respect that's pretty weak, I have guided in the canyon through the winter and it doesn't do that much damage. I say again...those trail were originally built for and by the mules and through the years without them any maintanance on them would be pretty tough because of the equipment needed to be packed in to work on them! This is just like the government....cut back in areas that makes no sense what so ever!! Why not put a toll gate at the head of all trails and charge ALL the hikers fees to hike it and thus create a new source of revenue! That's what they use to do at the canyon years ago...look it up! This seems to be all just a bunch of excuses to get the mules phased out to keep radical environmentalists and such happy! Pretty sad especially from a ranger considering I was good friends of most the rangers in my days there and they all too well knew the importance of the mules and their historic value! Obviously times have changed even since I last rode the trails there in 2005. Such a shame this is even being considered!! I'm sure there are many other areas that could be cut back or maybe created to gain the revenue needed for better trail maintanance! And as keeper noted, I myself have had to break the trail open to almost the 3 mile house riding back up and down 3 times to make a good enough pathe to allow groups out safely from phanton because the snow was so bad....funny thing no hiker dared it what so ever until I had broken it open and they took full advantage after that! Doubt any hikers that day bitched about the mules! Sure didn't see any park employee's out shoveling to ensure a precious hiker could get down that trail! Wow this all is so unbelievable and sad! Whatever.........

After the huge windfall of $200 million of Stimulus to IMR with massive new construction of buildings, reorganizing fragile real estate with construction of NEW above the Rim trails while mostly ignoring long needed corridor trail repairs the "no money" argument is pretty weak. The lack of consideration that could have been given to Riders while trail crews are absent especially with the history of trail crews and riders operating well on the same trails, is notable.

Jim, Being how your a Ranger your mind set does not surprise me in the least, You forgot to mention the thousands of seniors that are to old to hike to Phamtom but are still in good enough shape to ride a mule that will never get a chance to see the river at the bottom now, and all the youg folks from all over the world that want to be able to do what there parents did, its not your decision nor any other NPS, ITS THE PEOPLES PARK DON'T FORGET THAT, and dont forget that the trails were made for mules and by mules and they were there FIRST,, This is all a simple matter of a over zealous MARTIN on an ego trip, and not managing funds correctly, This is a huge issue, its about the Mules#1,#2 The jobs,#3 The History,#4 And the right of those People who want to ride a mule,#5 And American pride, now don't come on here and try to justify things differently, the Mules survived the Great depression and by God there goona survive this one, so pull your head out mister ,an opinion from you is like a hikers pile of toilet paper in the trail as so all my riders can view it first hand, you need to read the John Wayne Quote above and give that a thought, Kind Regards Gordon Smith Former Wrangler. And God Bless Jack Church.

Most folks over 50 yrs of age cant hike to the river and back out even in good health, But as a rule they all can make it in and out by mule, thats just a fact, I remember one rider I had that was 92 years old and could barely walk but he rode great, I had him behind me all the way to Phantom but on our way out the next day I had him ride drag bringing up the rear and helped in keeping everyone bunched up and he done great, so I all so see this as a profiling problem excluding our elderly from the inner Canyon and thats wrong and may be against the law all together,,, to this day I get Christmas cards from people I had on rides as far back as 20 yrs and they stay in touch with me, and its not about me, its about how important that mule ride in the Canyon was to them, and this is going on with every guide, experiences that are that important to folks ya just cant put a price on and I feel humble that I was apart of that for many thousands. Kind Regards Gordon Smith

Impact on the Canyon, Mule Versus Hiker: Section's of Trail without properly placed water bar's will wash out and that is an issue the NPS has not done correctly and that's proof in past photos, and dont tell me 1000 hikers a day dont do more damage than 60 or so head of mules.Everything that go's in with a mule comes back out on a mule, except the natural thing that I must say is certified weed free. Now when it comes to hikers there numbers are not regulated for day hikes and the things they discard on purpose or accident in the inner Canyon Ranges from tent poles to plastic bags to Granola wrappers to plastic canteens and once these products get blown or pushed of the edge they are there to stay baby, in every nook and crany out of site in the bottoms of remote draws and canyons, and most of this trash aint breaking down to nature in the next ten thousand years, and this is only goona get worse, you dont see NPS repelling from cliffs to do any clean up, whats up with that, I thought this is a impact issue, I STATE MY PEACE, any more impact arguments ? Oh now lets bring up the subject of Buro's still in Remote areas of the canyon a non native species trampling ancient indian ruins as well as wild cattle, these are out of pubic view so NPS lets it go on, Do I really need to paint more of a pic. Best Regards Gordon Smith

According to a survey published in 2006 by the Park Service, the average age of day mule riders was 48 years in summer, 49 in winter. The average overnight mule rider was 47 years old in summer and 56 years old in fall. The average age of the overnight Phantom Ranch hiker was 47 in summer and 54 in winter. Almost half and half as to men vs. women. The oldest person I've taken on a rim to rim hike was 82. I think Maverick, of the 100 plus rim to rims, was 82.

Here's a gal who hikes to Phantom every year on her birthday: this year is her 80th.

http://www.prescottaz.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=90111

Nothing is as simple as you would think with the federal government. My people can attest to this. The Great Father has nothing but contempt for anyone in his way. "Grand Canyon National Park" is a sacred place to the peoples of the Southwest. The Great Father stole it. He lied to the people. He came back after the Great War and lied to the people again and made their land radioactive. Now the Great Father cannot balance his budget. The sacred land has been defiled and Great Father cannot properly take care of it like the people who came before him did. Who will take care of the sacred lands?

Rock On, Dorothy! I look forward to seeing you on the trail. I do love it when I see people pushing their comfort zones to do exceptional things. Just plane nice to be around!
K

The notion that mule traffic dosen't damage the trails is mindless, the photo I saw showed a properly built and spaced series of check steps that had been washed over in a recent rain event. I would assume any moisture in topography like the Grand Canyon would cause some natural erosion.....mix this minor, recurring effect on the trail structures with the rigors of any livestock traffic, and the damage would undoubtly be worse and thus the mainteance cost would be higher.....much higher.

I have read several nasty comments in regard to the trail construction and it appears to me, that the NPS trail crews that are working on many years of erosion natural or "mule made". Why all the critisism on work that employs young men and women? - think of historic programs such as the WPA or CCC, programs such as these teach young people job skills and make them better prepared for future careers. With youth work groups I would also assume there is a variety of skill sets working on these repairs, there may be some other sections of this trail that look much more more finely constructed. I say there may be a debt of gratitude for the work the NPS trail crews have done, these nasty comments just make the people that make the repairs to the resource feel bad or resentful.

And dont tell me that the concessionaire did all the work, I asked some people I know - and the wrangler trail crew is only 4 people and has a high turn over rate and minimal support from the concessionaire; the NPS has employed several hundred over the last couple years making repairs to the South Kaibab trail just for mule traffic. Other NPS trail programs seem to have a fairly high opinion of the people that do the work at Grand Canyon.

Also, seems like there are only a handful of ex wrangler making most of the comments - there may be some sour grapes on this issue.


I'll try and bring you up to speed,Anonymous. There is some truth to some of what you say and I agree improvement in certain areas would be helpful. That's why I'm staying in the conversation. The comment about "ex-wranglers" is a low blow and doesn't show much in the way of, well, knowledge The retention of Xanterra's trail crew, packers and guides has to do with Xanterra's operating model that does have more to do with all of this than has been mentioned. A lot of dancing around the issue is in place. Let's GET TO IT is my suggestion and not destroy something so iconic and REAL for pretty questionable excuses/motivations. I really do not like that I have to spend so much time on this political stuff when everything seems so much clearer and solvable when I'm in the Canyon with humbled and respectful guests that come out with something so significant. I'd like to sit down with the principle decision makers, their public relation specialists and visit in a public broadcast situation to shine some light on things. NPS probably would say that the public comment period is over which is true but it appears that that was just a formality. I have all the public comments submitted and they reflect a much stronger pro-mule ride stance than has been presented. I approached NPR (KNAU) and NPS with the on air suggestion and they refused saying it wasn't appropriate until AFTER the EA was signed and in place.
What is also significant is the fact that most of the mule traffic is in support of HIKERS. A very high number of hikers use the mule duffel service to Phantom so they don't have to carry much more than water and snacks while on the trail. My last load I packed in to Phantom was 40 cases of beer for mainly, hikers. Mules are responsible for almost ALL support of Phantom Ranch and the mostly all hikers that stay there along with the needs of 13 full time employees. What has been gutted is the opportunity for a few riders to participate. Like I said a little light on the reality of this could go a long way. Thanks for the dialogue. K

The NPS statement above is fruitless, First off since my on and off years of guiding off both rims since the 70s I have never seen a NPS Trail crew larger than about eight people, NEVER, and thats about the same amount of workers Ive seen cutting tamarisk that grows back, what a waist of tax payer money,,, now thats a joke,,, and then the NERD comment of education in trail work :),, ya cant compare that to the number of young mule riders that are educated by the thousands about the Canyon, as in Geology,History,Botany,ETC,,,, and most Wranglers don't even have a computer to chime in with, nor have the time for this, so much for the sour Grapes, so get off your computer and off your A_ _ and get your ropes out and get down there and start picking up hikers trash, its your job security, because its never ending, Kind Regards Gordon Smith

Fine words of wisdom
Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.
Theodore Roosevelt
The government is us; we are the government, you and I.
Theodore Roosevelt
Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind.
Theodore Roosevelt

As long as I can remember there's alway's been a slight friction between Wranglers and NPS Rangers ? Now lets try to put together a puzzle, Martin Ex Ranger turn Super man, Fights with Wrangler, Wrangler in the right over safety of Riders, Martin cuts off Wranglers head, ,,$200,000,000 in Stimulus funds, Bike path to no where, no money for trail work, Martin takes retirement, money gone ? Very interesting picture, I hope theres an investigation ?

Oh, Pardon me, that number was $750,000,000 to the whole NPS system, my apology's, Regards G

Many of the frustrations expressed here could be reduced by volunteering your spare time as an alternative to criticizing the NPS and portraying it as some evil beast. I bet you could help pick up hiker trash, or educate park visitors about the mule issues. With the limits to spending associated of taxpayer dollars, as described in this article; I bet your volunteer time would be appreicated.

Or better yet, spend some time with these people working on these repairs caused by rain, mules, or hikers, or whatever, and with each ditch you dig, or rock you carry around, you could tell them each just how little you respect their work and how overpaid/underworked you think they are.

By all means, if the NPS cant get it without your direct input, or you know a better way. Do something more constructive than complain.

But where's the BEEF ? I dont see a MULE issue, I see a misappropriation of tax payer money ,. Where did it all go to help the Mules keep there job ?

I just hiked out of the South Kaibab Trail and saw what must have been 20-people working on the Red and Whites, there is a sign next to their work camp at Tip-Off that identifies it as a NPS work crew. There where people in uniforms ponding on rocks and rolling wheelbarrows around, looked like hard work to me. I would say that something is getting done with these entrance fee dollars.

Just a couple of days ago I saw what must have been 40-mules running down the road at the South Rim Village. They had escaped from the Xanterra mule barn and we all went out to watch the excitement. Ironically the most visible response to help capture and return these mules to the corral was the NPS rangers, they had vehicles blocking off the road as the mules where herded up.

I dont buy the earlier comment that the rangers and wranglers have some friction. Everyone seem to be in good spirits working together. And there dosent seem to be any shortage of mules in the park, it seems to me there are as many mules as there ever has been.

Contact Information for Congressman Rob Bishop

Office Addresses and Phone Numbers:

Washington office:
123 Cannon Building
Washington, DC 20515
ph: 202-225-0453
fax: 202-225-5857

Ogden office (main Utah office):
1017 Federal Building
324 25th St
Ogden, UT 84401
ph: 801-625-0107
fax: 801-625-0124

Brigham City office (staffed only part-time):
6 N Main St
Brigham City, UT 84302
ph: 435-734-2270
fax: 435-734-2290

Salt Lake office (staffed only part-time):
125 South State St, Suite 5420
Salt Lake City, UT 84138-1102
ph: 801-532-3244
fax: 801-532-3

To the complainer remark by anonymous: I 'm working hard at not truly reacting to your remark, LOL, it is so rediculous and out of place, really. It's my experience that NPS politicos (not backcountry rangers) do not really want our help except when they demand it.
There have been offers to assist NPS trail crews that typically get along VERY WELL with the mules. They LOVE the mules in conversations I've had and they admit they could not do their work without them. Last winter while they were working at Tip Off the crews had spend most of their daylight time and energy hiking from Phantom to the worksite above Tip Off and back everyday because they didn't have ENOUGH mules. I personally applied to be a volunteer on trail crew and was approved by the volunteer coordinator in Flagstaff but was never called by Trails Head Billy Allen.
The North Rim Wranglers have been great stewards of the trails. They routinely clean rest rooms at Supai and assist hikers DAILY with issues. The rest room maintenance was volunteer and routinely done before this year when it now is unnecessarily REQUIRED by NPS. Many times this last year the water at Supai Tunnel was turned of with inconsistent notification to hikers. Wranglers picked up the slack and provided water to hikers that were in dire shape. I could go on and on but what I will add that Superintendent Steve Martin has been the most divisive person in charge here that many can remember and came in here with an agenda. All of these arguments are completely unnecessary and not appreciated by those with a level of maturity and hands on experience in the Canyon.

Quote- Keeper: To the complainer remark by anonymous: I 'm working hard at not truly reacting to your remark, LOL.

Why the intimidation? The post was about volunteering your time and not complaining. Usually people get defensive when they get backed into a corner, could it be that the post offends you because its true?

And, yes I have hiked the North Kaibab Trail as well - if i remember correctly, the toilet you are celebrating the cleaning of - is primarily used by the mule riders; my opinion as a taxpayer is, if they dirty it.....they should help clean it.....why not. I think that if the NPS is requiring the concessionaire clean it, maybe thats a good thing.....whatever, its a toilet probably not the core issue here.

Or is this another activity that you feel the government should perform to support private industry at the Grand Canyon. Remember this whole topic is about the limts of spending taxayer dollars, why do you feel the government should spend 1.5-3.0 million dollars to repair trails annually, when the primary impacts come from for a private industry operation that makes a profit from this activity, trail repairs are not cheap.

So, Keeper - do me a favor and follow your own advice and stop name dropping the NPS people that must have upset you somehow, and quit making (Quote): unnecessary and unappreicated arguments, such as the comment you made that the work could not be done without mules.......no duh!

The question you should be asking is, how many mules are absolutely necessary to do the work, and how many mules are absolutely necessary to support the vistor experience. Remember that the NPS is required to preserve and protect these places, in perpetuity, for the enjoyment of future generations, not just your generation or demographic.

Also, before you blow a gasket, ask yourself - how many tax dollars would you spend per mule going down the trail, or per hiker to maintain access to a place that is dear to all of us. This is everyones favorite place, everone not just a favorite place for mules and the mule riders who go down on them.

No gasket problem here, Cheese. Sounds like you might be a local so would offer up something. Just a visit together over a micro or several. I'm not usually violent unless rudeness to my charges or the Canyon is involved :).
With just 0.06 % percent of the Inner Canyon Trails available to mules and their forever transformed riders the issue here needs to be put to rest and NOT with the present EA. It's about the public's need for something REAL that adds perspective to their own importance that I see. Would love to visit with someone as impassioned as yourself. Not much stealth here on this site. My name is Rich Granberg and can be messaged on Facebook. I'll buy the first round:).
Respectively

This is the Peoples Park,http://www.gordonspanel.com/
Quote.Remember that the NPS is required to preserve and protect these places, in perpetuity, for the enjoyment of future generations, not just your generation or demographic.

It seems that the pro-livestock crowd commenting here just wants carte - blanche access to the trails and no responsibility to the impacts of their activity. These commentors also seem to attack or attempt to discredit the comments from hiker groups or anyone that dosent share their opinions. Seem like a bully tactic to me.

Sorry, im my world there are limits to most everything. What suprises me is that the government had not restricted this activity sooner. How many people would go river rafting and what impacts would that have if left unchecked, how many helicpters would fly over the rim if not restricted.......how many mules daily, or should mules be the exception?

The recent EA for livestock use seems to add more mule rides in the park annually (from 8,000 to 10,000-ish), but mostly in areas that are easier/cheaper for the NPS to repair. It appears the areas that have been problematic or really expensive to repair historically, have fewer mules visiting them daily, or none at all. This seems like a good buisness practice to me.

Another irony of all these comments on restriction is that if the concerned parties wanted to bring in their own livestock into the canyon for a ride, they can go as often as they like, almost anywhere they like. the only entity being restricted is the concessionaire.

There are a variety of comments made about removing mules from the canyon.
In the EA I read - there is no mention of removing mules. the only place this comes up is in the emotional comments made by a few ex-wranglers here, or on their facebook page......repeatedly......geezus get over it. Xanterra has been provided with a operating plan and procedures that fit governement maintenance budgets. It dosent effect private use at all - you got a mule, get a permit go ride it in the Grand Canyon - celebrate being American.....whatever. Just stop with the sour grapes on everything Grand Canyon, you make it sound like a bad place, when in fact it is one of the most iconic places in this country and worty of protection and stewardship by the NPS from mule activity or any other activity that effects it negatively.

Keeper - your math is way off. That should read 6%.

Yes, ypw, my figure was indeed incorrect. You think it changes the dynamics of the discussion? I guess it does a bit but getting to what I see as the loss here is not concessionaire profits nor the cost to NPS but the LOSS TO THE PUBLIC because of the priority of sending trail dollars away from established public use to PUNISH a concessionaire (that does not care)! I see myself as someone that is sticking up for the PUBLIC'S experience here! I'd like you or anyone to try and argue I have selfish interests other than it fills me up to see what the experience means to the individuals that I lead. Go ahead and try, it'll be a wasted effort. You are welcome to join me and Yahoo for a brewsky.
Blessings

Here are some facts. During the years I was in charge of inner canyon mule operations for Xanterra, my 4 person trail maintenance crew did almost all the work keeping the south rim corridor trails open. NPS crews were rarely seen, and when they were, they spent precious time engaged in things like yoga while my crew had been working trail for hours. My budget for this trail crew was about 100,000 dollars.
With the NPS budget of 1.5 to 2 million, I could have kept those trails like interstate 40.
The mules were not kicked out because the NPS cant afford trail maintenance. They could afford it just perfectly fine on lower budgets in the 90's when I was there. Starting in the late 90's, they wasted the money they recieved and let the trails fall apart, some say on purpose.
I had asked more than once to be given the NPS money for trail maintenance and to take over all responsibility for this maintenance, and was told not only no, but that NPS wanted my trail crew to stand down and spend less time on trail repair.
Casey Murph
Former manager of Mule Operations, Xanterra
South Rim

I know several people that work on the NPS Trail Crew, these are some of the hardest working people I have ever known and they are passionate about their work. Billy Allen gets too much bad press for a guy who works like everyday and has to deal with short budgets, the government and the upper tiers of park management all the time he preaches to the trail crew about a greater cause. When something bad happens he is typically the first person to respond either personally or with his trail crew. I remember actually going in with him to remove mules from the trails that had fallen off - these were xanterra mules too. I wouldnt call you in for volunteer work if you complained on the internet and at public meetings about me or the things I feel strongly about either.