Trusted local news leader for Williams AZ and the Grand Canyon
Wed, Feb. 19

Year in Review


Mining firms seek permits to explore forest

The Forest Service put out a call for public comment on a mining company's request to do exploratory drilling for uranium in the Red Butte and Upper Basin areas of the Tusayan Ranger District.

VANE Minerals PLC, a gold, silver and uranium exploration company that operates in Great Britain, planned to drill several boreholes at each of 10 sites, over about a month and a half. The six-inch diameter holes will be refilled with the drillings and capped with concrete. They also planned to explore a 19-acre holding of their own land near the old airport.

According to Steve Jenner, forest Lands and Minerals Assistant, there were 859 mining claims on the Tusayan Ranger District as of last spring.

Xanterra buys Grand Canyon Railway outfit

Xanterra Parks & Resorts completed the purchase of the Grand Canyon Railway from owners Max and Thelma Biegert. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Xanterra assumed management of the railway's operations including the train trip from Williams to Grand Canyon Village, the 297-room Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, RV Park and Pet Resort, Max and Thelma's Restaurant and several real estate parcels in Williams.

Approximately 238,000 people took the two-hour trip from Williams to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park last year.


Man dies after flipping from raft on river trip

A 62-year-old Salt Lake City man, Marc Allred, died after he and another man flipped their cataraft at Crystal Rapid.

Once pulled from the water, Allred became unconscious and was unresponsive. Individuals on the boat initiated CPR, and contacted the National Park Service by satellite phone.

Allred's wife, who was also on the trip, was flown to the South Rim. The remaining trip participants continued down river.

Rangers recover body of possible

suicide subject

The body of Eric Reddish, a 24-year old Delaware man, was recovered from below Mather Point following what investigators have ruled a suicide.

Rangers found the body 300 feet below the rim early on Monday, April 2, following a report from mule wranglers that they'd seen a steady light below the rim as they ascended the South Kaibab Trail before dawn.

The body was located at about 9 a.m. and removed shortly afterward by helicopter.

According to park spokesperson Maureen Oltrogge, personal items left at the scene indicated that Reddish was suicidal and went over the edge intentionally.

Mountain lions sighted in park residential area

Three mountain lion sightings were reported in the Grand Canyon Village area. Two lions were reported together at Mather Point around midnight on April 2 and another was reported in the village area the next day. Park biologists said they were likely young lions passing through as they dispersed from the territory where they were born.

Clinic starts up citizen board to meet quarterly

Residents and business representatives were invited to join a new community advisory committee meeting quarterly to discuss delivery of care at North Country Community Health Center.

According to Don Keil, who represents Grand Canyon on North Country's Board of Directors, the committee organized out of discussions at public meetings hosted by North Country.

In summer of 2005 shortly before North Country assumed the clinic contract, residents indicated they wanted better communication than they felt they had with the previous provider.

While Keil had been available to hear concerns and pass them on, he said it was time to make the process more formal.


Inspection takes 11 tour buses, 1 driver off road

Eleven tour buses were taken out of service, five of them attached to tow trucks, after a joint Park Service-DPS commercial vehicle inspection in the park. Four drivers were also taken out of service in the inspection, including one whose alcohol count was .006 percent below the .04 legal limit for commercial drivers.

Of the 35 buses inspected, 25 had issues. In all, DPS wrote citations for 109 violations.

The worst included a broken frame, no brakes, tires with no tread, broken steering mechanism, holes in air lines to rear brakes, non-functioning emergency exits and no brake lights.


Two deaths in Inner Canyon over one week

Two people died in the Inner Canyon in one week in unrelated incidents - a 56-year-old woman while hiking in the backcountry and a 67-year-old man while on a commercial river trip.

April Goode of Salem, Ore., died on Tuesday, May 15, while hiking with her husband and four other companions near the junction of Tonto Trail and Ruby Canyon.

Goode is believed to have died due to heat-related complications. Inner Canyon temperatures were well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit that day, The Goodes were experienced hikers and the trouble was unexpected.

Donald Keyes of Athens, Ga., died a few days later while day hiking in Saddle Canyon while on a river trip. The trip launched the day before and had reached approximately river mile 47 where the popular day hike spot is located. A cardiologist who was also on the trip pronounced Keyes dead at 3:35 p.m. He had a history of heart trouble.


Hualapai sign agreement with Forest Service

Representatives from the Kaibab National Forest and the Hualapai tribe signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the tribe's Peach Springs reservation, recognizing shared areas and issues of concern.

Mike Williams, Kaibab National Forest supervisor, and Sherry J. Counts, vice-chairwoman for the Hualapai, signed the MOU, which outlines issues over which they will consult, such as land boundaries, use of resources, projects and sensitivity to the traditions and sacred areas of the Hualapai.

The agreement is the result of discussions between the tribe and archaeologists in 1992 and 1993 over human remains found in the area of Bill Williams Mountain.

Even though the Kaibab's land is not part of the Hualapai Reservation, the historical and sacred connection it has with the tribe, as well as several others, has raised issues on how the land is treated, how sacred areas are preserved and the partnership the Forest Service has with each tribe.

So far, MOUs have been signed with the Cameron Chapter of the Navajo Nation in 1998, the Hopi in 1999, the Havasupai in 2001 and now the Hualapai in 2007.


Funds granted to study Warm Fire impacts

The Joint Fire Science Program, a partnership of six federal agencies, funded two research projects in the Warm Fire area on the North Kaibab Ranger District. Dr. Richard Reynolds of the Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station received JFSP funding to study the effects of the Warm Fire on northern goshawks.

Northern Arizona University and Grand Canyon Trust received JFSP funding to study changes in vegetation and fuels in the Warm Fire area. Grand Canyon Trust, the largest livestock grazing permittee on the Kaibab Plateau, completed an initial ecological assessment of its grazing allotments in 2005, gathering data from 150 plots.

The JFSP funding will allow NAU and Trust researchers to gather post-fire data from about 20 plots within the Warm Fire area and 20 comparison plots outside of the fire area for three years, to find out how varying fire intensities affected the understory and overstory vegetation.


New company gets contract for North Rim

The contract for concessions operations on the North Rim went to Grand Canyon North Rim, L.L.C., an Arizona-based company associated with Forever Resorts, Inc.

Their bid competed with six others, including one from current concessioner, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, which held the contract for more than 10 years. The contract calls for the concessioner to provide lodging, food and beverage, retail, public showers, laundry and a gas station. The change will not affect Xanterra's South Rim contract.

Others submitting proposals were ARAMARK Sports & Entertainment Services, Inc.; Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, Inc.; Guest Services, Inc.; National Park Hospitality Company (associated with Vail Resorts, Inc.) and Mr. Darrell Hafen.

Forever Resorts, Inc., the parent company of Grand Canyon North Rim, L.L.C., started in 1981 with marina operations on lakes Mead and Mohave, Nev., and now operates concessions in other national parks, including Blue Ridge Parkway, Grand Teton National Park, Isle Royale National Park, Big Bend National Park, Badlands National Park and Olympic National Park. They also operate Mormon Lake Lodge and Zane

Grand Canyon, park in China sign agreement

Grand Canyon Superinten-dent Steve Martin and Han Yueping, superintendent of Yuntaishan World Geopark in China, signed a sister park arrangement in a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. Discussions started in April, initiated by government officials from Henan Province, China, and representatives from Beijing Normal University.

According to Martin, the two parks fit well together because they are both geologic parks with rock strata revealed by rivers that cut through the layers.

Through the arrangement, the two parks will seek to enrich the experience and training of personnel in both parks through projects of international cooperation that may include the exchange of technical and professional knowledge and personnel, information, data, technology, training and experience.

Park Service seeks bids for Verkamp's shop

The Park Service put out a call for bids for a 10-year concessions contract to operate Verkamp's Curios. The concessioner would be required to operate a gift shop, including sales of American Indian handicrafts, souvenirs and curios, thematic apparel, photo supplies, postcards, photographs, artwork, publications and limited convenience items. The contract term will be from Jan. 1, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2018.

The Verkamp family did not submit a bid to continue the operation they have run for more than a century.


Fire battled at Tusayan Holiday Inn Express hotel

An early-morning fire at the Holiday Inn Express on Wednesday, Sept. 19, displaced dozens of guests and directly damaged four rooms on the second and third floors.

According to Tusayan Fire Chief Robbie Evans, the first alarm came at 1:14 a.m., triggered by the hotel's fire alarm system. When firefighters arrived, people were already evacuating the 32-room building.

The initial responders, from the Tusayan department, first located fire on the third floor. They used fire extinguishers to keep the flames back as they made sure rooms were cleared. Meanwhile, more Tusayan firefighters arrived, along with reinforcements from Park Service and Xanterra Fire and Safety.


Four-year-old girl dies in fall near Mather

A four-year-old girl was killed in a 450-foot fall over the rim of the Grand Canyon on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

Natalie Yeargan of Litchfield Park, Ariz., was reported over the rim of the Canyon just west of the popular Mather Point shortly after 11:30 a.m.

Her father scrambled down the cliff below the rim to reach her but his efforts to revive her failed. The South Entrance Road that passes Mather Point was closed for a short time while a long-haul operation was conducted to remove the body. Her father was then removed via a short haul operation due to an ankle injury sustained from scrambling over the edge. The girl's body was transported to the South Rim helibase and turned over to the Coconino County Medical Examiner's Office in Flagstaff.

According to park spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge the accident occurred in an area where the rim was about 20 feet from the trail and wasn't barred by guardrails.


Biologist dies after handling infected lion

On Nov. 2, park wildlife biologist, 37-year-old Eric York, was found dead in his home. The investigation revealed that he had died of pneumonic plague which he contracted from a mountain lion on which he'd performed a necropsy. Investigators believe the lion died of plague as well.

The mountain lion was mother of three cubs that were discovered in July and tagged, with plans to follow their growth to maturity. She was one of several radio-collared cats in a research study on territory and migration.

Characteristic of pneumonic plague, York's illness progressed rapidly. He autopsied the mountain lion on Friday, Oct. 26, presented at the clinic with generalized flu-like symptoms on Tuesday, Oct. 30, and died the following Friday.

Park Superintendent Steve Martin said that public health agencies were brought on board immediately.

Public health officials recommended a seven-day regimen of precautionary antibiotic treatment for about 50 people who came within six feet of York when he was symptomatic.


Superintendent on short list for Phoenix job

After a round of interviews, Grand Canyon School Superintendent Sheila Breen emerged as one of two finalists for the job of overseeing the largest school district in Phoenix. The governing board for the Phoenix Union High School District expects to make a decision today.

The other finalist for the position is Kent Scribner, superintendent of the Isaac Elementary School District in Phoenix since 2003. The district has about 8,000 students in grades pre-kindergarten-eighth.

Breen has been superintendent at Grand Canyon since 2003. She has a combined 14 years in the Phoenix Union district, most recently as director of special education and gifted programs from 1999-2003.

According to information on its Web site, Phoenix Union is one of the largest secondary districts in the nation, fed by 13 elementary districts with more than 25,000 students and staff of nearly 2,700, spread over 11 comprehensive schools, three alternative programs and three small schools, spread over 220 square miles. It hosts a dozen magnet programs, including marine and environmental studies, agribusiness, studies in aviation and aerospace and International Baccalaureate's diploma program.

The annual budget is $228 million.

Student breakdown is 77 percent Hispanic, 10 percent African American, 8 percent Caucasian, 4 percent Native American and 1 percent Asian. For 62 percent of students, Spanish is the primary language spoken at home.

Breen was one of 15 applicants when the job was advertised late last summer.

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