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
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.