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Contact: Maureen Oltrogge, 928-638-7779
Grand Canyon, Ariz. - Starting in May the National Park Service (NPS) will begin the reconstruction of Grand Canyon National Park’s popular South Kaibab Trail. The project will significantly improve the condition of the trail for both hikers and mule users alike. The project is expected to take anywhere from two to four years and will include resurfacing of the trail; stabilization and preventative maintenance to existing retaining walls; replacing retaining walls that have been lost to floods, slides, or erosion; repairing and aligning existing water diversion features; etc.
While this project is underway, mule and stock use that would typically utilize the South Kaibab Trail will be diverted to the Bright Angel Trail.
The South Kaibab Trail will remain open to hikers during the trail reconstruction; however, occasional short delays may occur - hikers will be advised to follow instructions provided by trail crew members, or through signing and other advisories.
Once the reconstruction of the South Kaibab Trail is complete, the National Park Service will consider a similar project for the Bright Angel Trail, if funding becomes available.
Grand Canyon National Park is renowned for its trails. The Park has more than 630 miles of trails, including 415 miles of inner canyon backcountry trails and 42 miles of inner canyon corridor trails. Corridor trails include Bright Angel Trail, the River Trail, and the South Kaibab and North Kaibab Trails.
Xanterra South Rim L.L.C., uses the South Kaibab Trail for visitor trail rides from Phantom Ranch to the rim and for administrative functions including packing supplies into Phantom Ranch (the Bright Angel Trail, including Plateau Point, is also used by Xanterra for visitor trail rides). Likewise the NPS uses mules on the South Kaibab Trail to support trail work, as well as for other administrative functions. Although private stock may travel the South Kaibab Trail, only ten groups with stock camped below the rim in 2008 – most using the Bright Angel and North Kaibab Trails.
To address the issue of how best to complete reconstruction work, the NPS made the decision to temporarily divert mule traffic during construction activities for the safety of mule riders and hikers alike, as well as to save costs by reducing the time it will take to reconstruct the trail.
Inner canyon corridor trails are subject to significant annual erosion, seasonal flooding and rockslides, and acute wear from mule operations that begin from the North and South Rims. The annual operation, maintenance and frequent rehabilitation requirements of these trails require a tremendous annual effort by the Park’s trail crew, which has been largely underfunded since 1998. Grand Canyon’s Park Asset Management Plan, a document that provides a footprint of the Park’s facility asset portfolio, shows over $260 million in deferred maintenance parkwide, $24 million of which is deferred maintenance on Grand Canyon trails. The NPS also has an annual short fall of $1 million for cyclic/preventative trail maintenance.
An environmental assessment (EA), planned for later this spring, will examine mule and stock use on all corridor trails to determine the appropriate level of use in the future. The EA will be completed under the guidance of the Park’s 1995 General Management Plan and in full compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended, which calls on federal agencies to consider environmental issues as part of their decision making process and to involve interested parties in the process. Initial public involvement in this EA will likely occur in April or May, 2009.
Information on the reconstruction project will be available in The Guide, a free publication available at Park entrance stations, visitor contact stations, and on line at http://www.nps.gov/grca or by calling the Backcountry Information Center at 928-638-7875.
To obtain information about the EA or to add your name to the mailing list for public involvement, please contact Rachel Stanton, Environmental Compliance Specialist at 928-774-9612 or by email at e-mail us.