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  Expand the "Spectrum"
  BQR ~ fall 1998

here is a general belief that the current commercial river allocation benefits only those who can afford a one- to two-thousand dollar river trip, in other words the affluent. Although people earning less than an upper-middle income can save up for a Grand Canyon vacation (generally in less time than required to wait for a private trip), the current access system favors the financially secure. Part of the current Colorado River Management Planning (CRMP) process centers on how concessioners can better serve a broader spectrum of the American public. The following is offered for discussion purposes.

   There are at least several neglected "publics" deserving serious consideration. One consists of educational groups, i.e., university/college-level organizations. In theory, this group should provide college-level courses for credit, with the actual on-river experience provided at cost. The river trips should be participatory (e.g., paddle trips with limited oar-powered support), integrating rigorous college-level educational requirements.

  The history of these types of trips indicates potential for abuse, so stringent academic and cost stipulations must apply. For example, a panel of educators representing various colleges and universities (and the nps) could recommend standards and costs for courses, as well provide a peer-reviewed, prioritized list of courses submitted by the various colleges. These courses, scheduled over the life of the concessioner's contract, could be conducted by the college or university involved. The allocation would come from the commercial sector. While most current outfitters offer "educational" trips, the proposed concession's sole purpose would be following the advisory panel's educational recommendations and providing low cost river access.

   A second group consists of individuals or groups interested in a high degree of participation but who also desire or require a guide's presence. This service constitutes the traditional "support" trip. The perception exists among some private boaters and guides that many boaters waiting for a noncommercial launch date actually desire this type of trip. A querying of the current private waiting list could quickly determine if this service is "necessary and appropriate."

   As proposed, participants could select their guide from a pool of qualified trip leaders. The guide would not transport folks but would provide advice regarding rapid running, camp selection, scheduling hikes, interpretation, etc. These folks either have their own boats or require rental equipment, but there would be no distinction between "passengers" and boatmen. They, as individuals or as a group, would be responsible for getting down the river.

   The requirement or desire for a guide separates these users from the private sector. Those who prefer riding as passengers in a professionally-operated raft would contact the traditional outfitters. Since a guide presence (albeit minimal), food cost and equipment rental constitute the principal expenses, these services should be considerably lower than charged by any current concessioners. Obviously, issues regarding insurance and other business-related concerns need addressing. This concession could provide a valuable service while significantly reducing the private waiting list, but only if the allocation comes from the commercial sector.

   Another important "public" not adequately represented in current concession operations consists of "youth groups." The current effort to revive the Grand Canyon Youth program deserves praise and encouragement, but their success is dependent on the outfitters' generally sporadic and, for this public, expensive support. I propose consideration of a separate concessioner devoted to low-cost river trips for a broad range of youths (At Risk, disadvantaged, and other kids from low to middle income backgrounds). As proposed for the educational groups, a citizen's panel consisting of representatives from the various youth groups (governmental as well as nongovernmental organizations) could review requests, as well as propose scheduling and funding alternatives for the life of the concession contract. The emphasis would be an equitable, effective, and economical youth program. Again, this should be part of the commercial allocation.

   A fourth group consists of the physically challenged. A similar concessioner as described for youth organizations, with a similar panel of experts and review process, could be created. Again, this would comprise a commercial allocation.

   As mentioned above, these proposals are offered only to encourage constructive debate. This list mentions only a few of the disenfranchised. The proposals are preliminary, but in order to adequately address the needs of the populations describe above it is essential that a broad representation of relevant experts join the crmp process. By seriously addressing in open debate the public needs described above, and confronting the discriminatory realities of the current commercial allocation, we could ultimately expand professional guiding's service to America's public.

Kim Crumbo

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