New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

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maxpower
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New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by maxpower » Jan 11 2011 3:17 pm

Posted recently. Emphasis (bold text) is mine:


GRAND CANYON, Ariz. – The National Park Service (NPS) approved a stock use plan January 5, 2011, that allows commercial mule rides to continue at historically high levels in Grand Canyon National Park, but limits rides on some inner canyon trails that have been damaged by mule use. Private stock use remains unchanged from current use levels.

"Mule rides have always been an important part of the visitor experience at Grand Canyon," said Acting Superintendent Palma Wilson. "Our challenge with this plan was to balance that use with the protection of historic trails and to reduce the high cost of maintaining those trails. We believe this plan strikes such a balance."

The stock use plan was formally adopted by the NPS with the signing of a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) by Intermountain Regional Director John Wessels. The plan adopted by the NPS was among five alternatives analyzed in an Environmental Assessment issued by Grand Canyon National Park for public review and comment in May 2010. The purpose of the EA was to examine environmental impacts associated with commercial, private and administrative stock use – guided by the following objectives:

•Provide opportunities for mule and stock use within Grand Canyon National Park to as large a cross section of visitors as practicable.
•Establish appropriate levels and types of stock use (i.e. number of stock per day, group size) on park trails that will allow for improved maintenance and reduced resource impacts and costs associated with trail maintenance.
•Through improved maintenance and operations, reduce conflicts between stock users and hikers on park trails.
•Identify optimal stock facility locations, including associated infrastructure size and locations for improving health, safety and overall visitor experience.
With the signing of the FONSI, the NPS has determined that the preferred alternative ("Alternative B" in the EA) will not significantly affect the human environment or the natural and cultural resources of the park, nor will it violate any environmental protection law.

The stock use plan allows a potential 20 percent increase in commercial mule rides over the present yearly average on South Rim trails, and a potential 13 percent increase over the present annual average on North Rim trails. For South Rim operations, which have averaged 8,315 commercial mule rides a year for the past eight years; the new limit is up to 10,000 rides per year. On the North Rim, with an average of 7,072 commercial rides annually now, up to 8,000 commercial rides a year will be allowed.

The stock use plan will help Grand Canyon address the impact of heavy, continuous use and limited trail maintenance funds on the park's 42 miles of corridor trails – the three main routes into the inner canyon.

To aid repair and improvements, the stock plan decreases rides on the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails and designates an above-the-rim ride. On the Bright Angel Trail rides will be reduced from 40 rides per day (20 rides to Plateau Point and 20 to Phantom Ranch) to 10 rides to Phantom Ranch per day. These 10 rides will return on the South Kaibab Trail, once reconstruction of the trail is complete. The Plateau Point ride will be replaced by the above-the-rim ride, which offers greater flexibility and more opportunities for visitors.

The plan limits trips to Supai Tunnel on the North Kaibab Trail to 280 rides per week with a daily maximum not to exceed 48 riders a day, a number that has been exceeded less than a dozen times in recent years. The plan also eliminates the Roaring Springs ride. The Roaring Springs section of the North Kaibab Trail, a steep and narrow stretch that was expensive to maintain, was temporarily closed to mule traffic in 2009. Within one year of the change, trail degradation and associated maintenance costs declined significantly.

The plan will designate a new above-the-rim ride on the South Rim, as stated above, which will replace a temporary rim ride that was added in 2009 to accommodate visitor needs. Extensive work continues today on the 7-mile South Kaibab Trail, which is expected to accommodate mule trips returning to the rim from Phantom Ranch sometime in 2012 or 2013.

Visitors to Grand Canyon have taken guided mule trips since the early 1900s, before the park was officially established in 1919. Today, an average of 15,400 visitors a year ride mules on commercially guided trips down into the canyon and above the rim. The number of private mule and stock use is unknown because day-use permits are not required, but on average, about 60 private riders a year make overnight trips. In addition, the park uses mules for maintenance and supply trips into the canyon.

Primary elements of the preferred alternative include:

South Rim

· Commercial stock use: Up to 10,000 commercial mule rides a year (current average use is 8,315 rides)

· Bright Angel Trail: Up to 10 mule riders a day, plus up to two guides, from the rim to Phantom Ranch on the Colorado River. Day rides to Plateau Point will no longer operate

· South Kaibab Trail: Up to 10 mule riders a day, plus guides, from Phantom Ranch to the rim. In addition, up to 12 supply mules, including guides, will be allowed daily to Phantom Ranch

· Above-rim ride: Up to 40 mule riders a day, with at least one guide for every 10 riders, on a loop route from the South Kaibab trailhead to the rim near Yaki Point, continuing east another mile before returning

· South Rim stock facilities: The historic mule barn in Grand Canyon Village will continue to house a small number of commercial mules. Most of the concessioner's stock will move to the South Kaibab trailhead mule barn and corrals, which will be improved to accommodate more animals

· Private stock use: Up to six riders and six mules/horses on overnight trips below the rim. Day-use group size will be up to 12 riders and 12 stock

North Rim

· Commercial stock use: Up to 8,000 commercial mule rides a year (current average use is 7,072 rides)

· North Kaibab Trail: Up to 48 riders a day, with no more than 280 in a seven-day period (average of 40 a day) to Supai Tunnel, with no more than 30 riders on the trail at one time. These numbers reflect changes from the original EA, based on public demand and meetings with the mule ride concessioner

· Ken Patrick Trail (above rim): Up to 40 one-hour mule riders a day to the Uncle Jim Trail junction, with no more than 20 mule riders on this section of trail at one time

· Uncle Jim Trail: Up to 20 half-day riders a day to Uncle Jim Point

· North Rim stock facilities: The hitching rail at Uncle Jim Point will remain in place, and a one-stall composting toilet will replace the existing facility, with weekly (or as needed) cleaning and routine maintenance

· Private stock use: Up to six riders and six mules/horses on overnight trips below the rim. Day-use group size will be up to 12 riders and 12 stock

· Commercial use at Tuweep and Whitmore Trail: Up to six stock-use groups a year at Tuweep under a commercial use authorization. These groups are limited to 12 riders and 12 stock, including guides, and are for day-use only. Stock use will be discontinued on Whitmore Trail, which is remote and not maintained

The FONSI and EA are available online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/grca. In addition to the details outlined above, the FONSI includes information on monitoring, adaptive management (a system that adjusts management to fit changing concerns and impacts), trail maintenance and closures, mule waste clean-up, trail user education, trail maintenance funding, stock facilities, administrative use and other topics.

For further information, contact Rachel Bennett, Environmental Protection Specialist at Grand Canyon, at 928-638-7326

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azbackpackr
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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by azbackpackr » Jan 11 2011 3:36 pm

I like the mules. But they do make a mess.
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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by autumnstars » Jan 11 2011 6:45 pm

I imagine NPS was motivated more by the costs of trail maintenance than anything else.
If you've seen the damage to those into-canyon trails that mules are allowed on toward the end of the season... Well, one can only imagine how much NPS spends on maintenance.
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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by Canyonram » Jan 13 2011 10:00 am

Xanterra South Rim is the private company that runs South Rim concessions. In 2008, it provided 9,600 mule rides for tourists, bringing in slightly less than $2.7 million. By contract, Xanterra gives the park 3.8 percent of its gross, about $100,000.

But the park spent $2 million on trail maintenance that year and says it needed to spend even more.

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/ ... z1Aw2RKSv6

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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by PaleoRob » Jan 13 2011 10:07 am

Article in the Daily Sun - front page - yesterday about this very thing.
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autumnstars
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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by autumnstars » Jan 13 2011 9:01 pm

Canyonram wrote:But the park spent $2 million on trail maintenance that year and says it needed to spend even more.
Wow! And NPS even does a lot of their maintenance work using interns, so they don't spend as much on personnel as they might.
"Let it ride / Let it roll / Let it go"

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maxpower
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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by maxpower » Jan 13 2011 10:04 pm

I just got back from a day hike, down the Bright Angel, across the Tonto, and exiting via the South Kaibab. They are heavily at work on the Kaibab today. A crew of 6 trail workers were doing footpath repair on the section between Skeleton Point and the junction of the Tonto, specifically in the steep switchback section where it drops through the Redwall. Also, the crew is living in a couple of industrial size tents with a huge equipment container that is set up at the Tonto junction, some distance behind the outhouse. Here is a shot of the camp. I had to get it from a distance because (a) they had a sign requesting hikers to keep out and (b) I was too lazy to walk any closer. :sweat:
22.jpg

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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by azbackpackr » Jan 14 2011 4:22 am

maxpower wrote:I just got back from a day hike, down the Bright Angel, across the Tonto, and exiting via the South Kaibab. They are heavily at work on the Kaibab today. A crew of 6 trail workers were doing footpath repair on the section between Skeleton Point and the junction of the Tonto, specifically in the steep switchback section where it drops through the Redwall. Also, the crew is living in a couple of industrial size tents with a huge equipment container that is set up at the Tonto junction, some distance behind the outhouse. Here is a shot of the camp. I had to get it from a distance because (a) they had a sign requesting hikers to keep out and (b) I was too lazy to walk any closer. :sweat:
22.jpg
Jim_H and I did that exact hike on Sunday. (It was COLD and very windy on the upper Kaibab by late afternoon!) We also saw the workers. The trail tread they have finished looks very nice. Just the way it looked several years ago when I passed by there, when they were working on it. Point is, this nice work does not last long when there are many hooves tearing it up.

The people in the outfit doing the work were not college interns. They were from a non-profit outfit called ACE: American Conservation Experience, which has been doing trail work in the Canyon for some time. My son worked for them for a short time. From what he tells me they get a lot of mostly European volunteers who are willing to come over here and get free room and board (tent?) in exchange for back-breaking labor. http://www.usaconservation.org/
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maxpower
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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by maxpower » Jan 14 2011 7:20 am

azbackpackr wrote:Jim_H and I did that exact hike on Sunday. (It was COLD and very windy on the upper Kaibab by late afternoon!)
Yesterday was weird! It was quite comfortable walking on the Tonto, shorts and T-shirt in the sun. By the time I got up to Skeleton point it started getting colder so I put on my pants and a fleece. By the time I reached the section along the side of O'Neil Butte, it was downright freezing. Suddenly, as I hit Cedar ridge it started warming up again and by Ooh Ah Point, it was so warm I had to go back to shorts and T-shirt. It was really amazing, the temperature inversion must have been at least 20 degrees between the rim and O'Neil Butte!

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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by autumnstars » Jan 14 2011 9:16 am

azbackpackr wrote:The people in the outfit doing the work were not college interns.
Guess I was using intern as a loose term to indicate any non-standard worker being payed by room, board, and possibly a small stipend, instead of an hourly wage.
Imagine how much NPS saves by having these crews do a lot of the labor instead of employees - and yet still they can't keep up with what's needed.
I've talked to those crews before, too, and was surprised how many were from Europe.
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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by big_load » Jan 14 2011 10:17 am

azbackpackr wrote:They were from a non-profit outfit called ACE: American Conservation Experience, which has been doing trail work in the Canyon for some time. My son worked for them for a short time. From what he tells me they get a lot of mostly European volunteers who are willing to come over here and get free room and board (tent?) in exchange for back-breaking labor.
I met a big ACE group in the Galiuros in November. They were mostly US kids of college age or slightly older; quite a few were from AZ. They were also a really hardy bunch. We met them as they were finishing up the job and were carrying out their tools. A few of them did round trips that day from Powers Garden to Deer Creek TH. A couple mules would have come in handy.

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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by John13np » Jan 14 2011 11:45 am

big_load wrote:
azbackpackr wrote:They were from a non-profit outfit called ACE: American Conservation Experience, which has been doing trail work in the Canyon for some time. My son worked for them for a short time. From what he tells me they get a lot of mostly European volunteers who are willing to come over here and get free room and board (tent?) in exchange for back-breaking labor.
I met a big ACE group in the Galiuros in November. They were mostly US kids of college age or slightly older; quite a few were from AZ. They were also a really hardy bunch. We met them as they were finishing up the job and were carrying out their tools. A few of them did round trips that day from Powers Garden to Deer Creek TH. A couple mules would have come in handy.

You may have meet Coconino Rural Environment Corp (CREC) BigLoad. I have worked for them and we are from all over the country but a few of us are from AZ. http://www.crecweb.org/home.php I loved working for them, did it for about one year and i was able to camp out inside the GC for 16 nights. I have also worked all over the SW, and we "Spiked out" for 8 days at a time in out tents. What a job that was!

ACE is a Conservation Corp that people come from all over the world to work for. They don't get paid, but they get free rooms in Flagstaff. They don't do near as good of work as CREC, but they are way cheaper to hire for the NPS USFS. http://www.usaconservation.org/

There is also the Southwest Conservation Corp (SCC) http://sccorps.org/ that is based out of Tucson and Durango.

So if you see a Conservation Corp out and about working on trails, putting up fence, or cutting down invasive trees, be sure to say hello and thank them for their hard work and dedication. (Even though it's an amazing job that i would love to go back to!)

There
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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by big_load » Jan 14 2011 12:00 pm

@John13np It was definitely ACE. Mrs. big_load spent quite a bit of time talking to them and they left some notes in the cabin. (photo of notes: http://hikearizona.com/photo.php?ZIP=168508 ). They were on site for five weeks altogether with up to 15 people at the end. They looked pretty hungry, so we gave them all our spare food. Some of them were on their way back to Flagstaff, a couple were off to different projects up north.

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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by John13np » Jan 14 2011 12:10 pm

Hmmm. Just interesting that they would be from AZ. To work for ACE, you actually have to pay ACE a deposit. Then you get it back at the end of your term. I have never heard of anyone in the states willing to do that. However, the crew leaders are from AZ. Maybe that's who she was talking to?
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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by big_load » Jan 14 2011 12:32 pm

The crew leader was one of them. Another was a guy from Page, whose father is an AZ archaeologist who worked at Besh-Ba-Gowah for quite a while. I can't remember now if the father or the son is named Douglas. I can't remember where most of the others were from, but my wife grilled them pretty thoroughly since she does marketing for colleges and they were something like a typical focus group from a small southwestern school (an awful lot like Western State in Gunnison). There were a couple Native Americans in the group, and others not from AZ. There could well have been some non-US folks, too, since a few of them didn't talk much.

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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by azhiker96 » Jan 15 2011 9:48 pm

When I camped at Phantom Ranch the ranger said the NPS spends way more repairing mule damage on the trails than they are paid by Xanterra. My memory is dim but I think they get $10 per rider while the mules cause about $75 per rider in damage to the trails. I'm happy to see them cut back on the below the rim rides.
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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by Canyonram » May 27 2011 10:56 pm

"Western Mule Magazine" has a series of articles on Mules at the Canyon including strong reaction to changes in the way mules are used. Their initial fear was that mule trips into the Canyon was going to be totally eliminated.

http://www.westernmulemagazine.com/nati ... ments.html

Scroll down to the links for a series of articles published in the magazine. Hikers and backpackers are not viewed in a favorable light---we're all pointy-headed granola eating geeks in our expensive hiking boots and fancy backpacks. LOL.

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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by KwaiChang » May 30 2011 7:44 pm

Granted I am a Canyon rookie and I saw the trails in the beginning of the season and all but there is NO WAY I would want ANY mules going below the rim. I would do one maybe two helo drops and pick ups a week for Phantom and call it at that.

Yeah they might be cute but those things they leave on the trail STINK and are quite a bit messy!!!!

My $.02 - I know alot of you think they are a good idea but I am not in agreement with that.
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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by azbackpackr » May 31 2011 10:15 am

One thing to remember is the historical aspect. The Park wants to maintain some of its traditions. I say, "just get over it," and next time, if you really want to see the Canyon, don't hike in the Corridor. ;)

I would rather have these mules in the Corridor than one single tour helicopter or airplane.
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Re: New stock (Mule) usage guidelines

Post by BrettVet » May 31 2011 10:48 am

I posted this previously on a similar thread.
I have to admit that I am biased toward keeping the mules in the Grand Canyon. I have both hiked and ridden my mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.. Mules are responsible for building the Bright Angle and South Kaibab trail. First as a mining claim and then as the original Grand Canyon tourist attraction. Theodore Roosevelt frequently rode to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on a mule which is well documented in photographs. He was so impressed; he preserved the Grand Canyon by making it the first national monument. The National Park System soon followed. Mules maintain these trails by hauling dirt and trail building materials down the canyon. Mules carry people down the canyon that would otherwise be unable to get there. Like myself with arthritis. Is the canyon experience limited to only those who are able? They also perform search and rescue and frequently carry a hiker with a broken ankle up and out of the canyon. Mules supply Phantom Ranch with food, repairs and workers that maintain the trails and campsites. Mules do not destroy trails, that mantra has been repeated over and over with no science behind it for years, Most science points to erosion as the primary cause of trail damage along with the 200,000 hikers a year. OK I’ll give you the mule poop in the trail argument, but if you step in it, it will not kill you and may make you a real westerner and a little tougher. The last argument for preserving the mules in the Grand Canyon is history. For the last 162 years the mules have created and preserved the Grand Canyon experience and for history alone they should be allowed to continue. Quite simply the mules created the trails and were kind enough to let hikers use them, now because a few hikers find stepping over some manure objectionable the mules must go. When I hiked the canyon as a youth I talked to very few hikers and was just another sweaty face on the trail. When I rode my mule Rosie with a pack animal in tow everyone wanted to talk and take a picture because they could see that I represented history. History will be lost. This park compromise is the first in a plan to eliminate mules from the park. Can’t we all get along.

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