Friends of Grand Canyon, welcome to the GCA blog! The year of 2015 was a busy one and the most successful in Grand Canyon Association’s history! With your support we surpassed our goals and provided more support than ever to the park. Here are some of the things we accomplished together this past year:
Historic Kolb Studio Renovation
Built on the canyon’s South Rim, Kolb Studio has served as home, photographic studio and theater for Ellsworth and Emery Kolb. The Kolb brothers, who truly appreciated the beauty of Grand Canyon were prolific trailblazers in capturing it on film. Their breathtaking photographs introduced Americans to the Grand Canyon, and their work shaped our nation’s view about a national parks.
With the help of GCA supporters, we returned the historic Kolb studio to its original grandeur. Over the years, harsh conditions weathered many of the studio’s classic features and parts of the building were in a state of disrepair. Work on the Kolb Studio began in 2014 and was completed in 2015 and celebrated at the rededication ceremony at Members Weekend last May. This historic preservation effort will help keep this important piece of Grand Canyon history available for future generations to enjoy for many years to come. The next time you are at the canyon stop by to see how your donations were put to work making this building ready to weather the next 100 years on the rim.
A Garden to recognize the Canyon’s native plants
More than 1,900 different kinds of plants call Grand Canyon National Park home. With more than 5,000 feet of elevation change, a hike from rim to river is equivalent to walking from Canada to Mexico and experiencing the significant diversity in vegetation along the way. The Demonstration Garden grew from the desire to restore the South Rim’s original vegetation, while creating sustainable solutions for plants to thrive in the village area.
Soon visitors will be able to explore and learn about native vegetation at Grand Canyon National Park. The new Demonstration Garden currently being planted near the El Tovar Lodge will display a diverse and indigenous plant population that replaces previously lawn-filled areas. The non-native greenery, originally planted for the enjoyment of the park visitors, also attracted elk and other large mammals to this area increasing the likelihood of dangerous encounters with wildlife. The infrastructure for the garden is currently in place, complete with meandering sidewalks and seating.
Kids at the Canyon – Enlightening young minds
The Kids at Grand Canyon program forges life-long connections between school children and our national parks. Through this program, Grand Canyon National Park assists in providing transportation to the Park for approximately 2,000 additional school children per year to participate in a Ranger-led curriculum-based field trips. Park representatives including interpretive rangers also make site visits to approximately 70 schools annually and present hands-on, in-classroom activities as well as assembly programs to 8,500 students each year. Because of you the park is hard at work inspiring and educating the next generation to care for and protect Grand Canyon.
Clear Creek Trail – Restoring Grand Canyon trails to withstand the next 100 years
In 2015, the Trails Forever Endowment from Arizona Public Service (APS) supported much-needed restoration work on the Clear Creek Trail. Park service staff, in collaboration with youth training corps, spent weeks this past spring rehabilitating and stabilizing the trail by removing rockfall and clearing overgrown vegetation—all while taking special care not to disturb historic Civilian Conservation Corps structures built in the 1930s that are adjacent to the trail. Now the Clear Creek Trail is now safer and more accessible for hikers.
Desert View Watchtower – creating an area for cultural appreciation
Built in 1934 by famed female architect, Mary Colter, the Watchtower at Desert View was always intended to be a place to celebrate and learn about the surrounding Native Tribes of Grand Canyon. In 2015, Grand Canyon National Park took ownership of the tower and cleared out the bottom floor, allowing for visitors to experience the tower as it was originally intended.
Notable features of the Desert View Watchower include authentic murals by Fred Kabotie. Kabotie was a guide and musician at Grand Canyon; he was also a fine artist, and Colter hired him to paint murals on the walls of the Hopi Room. With the help of a grand from American Express, the condition of these murals have recently been evaluated and will be restored to their original condition.
Designed as a space where visitors could see Native American craft demonstrations by weavers and basket makers, overtime, that tradition ended but is now being reintroduced to visitors The park service is bringing cultural demonstrations back into the historic building and expanding demonstration to include the sharing of tribal traditions, dances, songs, skills, art and spoken history with the public. The transformation of the Watchtower back to its original intent is already proving to be a dramatic experience welcome for visitors and park staff.
Don’t forget to visit the Grand Canyon Association Park store that is tucked in the corner of the first floor. Your purchase supports the park.
A Celebration of Art
The 7th Annual Celebration of Art enjoyed another successful year! During this GCA event held each Fall in the park, a select group of artists spend one week creating plein air paintings depicting a diverse number of locations both on and below the rims At the end of the week, all artwork created by the participating artists is hung in the Kolb Studio gallery and put on sale through mid-January for public purchase. The proceeds from this special event will one day help GCA and the National Park Service for visitors to enjoy art of the canyon year-round.
New Picnic Tables at Indian Garden
For many years, the original picnic tables located nearly five miles down the Bright Angel trail at Indian Garden have endured the elements. With time they became splintered, broken and unfit to use by the many hikers that pass through this inner canyon spot. In 2015, we helped the park purchase 33 new weather resistant picnic tables. Getting 30-plus tables into the inner canyon was no small feat. After waiting for a day with no wind, park service helicopters airlifted the unassembled tables down to Indian Garden on a cable line. Once the tables were delivered, 11 volunteers assisted seven National Park Service staff to assemble and place the tables. The next time you hike the Bright Angel Trail or camp at Indian Garden, stop and enjoy a much-deserved break in comfort!
Saving Lives at Grand Canyon
30,000 visitors also receive some form of corrective Hike Smart education. That’s 30 percent of the hiking population entering the Grand Canyon in the middle of summer underprepared for the challenges of hiking in the canyon—an oversight that is, at times, deadly.
Through the years the Grand Canyon PSAR program has grown. The PSAR team is comprised of an incredible group of volunteers who dedicate their time to talking to hikers on the trail and asking questions about their preparedness. Because of this volunteer support, search and rescue operations, although still needed, occur less often. However, the tools needed to perform these essential tasks when a need does arise hasn’t been upgraded in many years. In 2015 the PSAR program was able to purchase new radios to improve communication and their response times to better ensure hiker safety when it’s most important.
Providing an area for Native Vegetation at Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon National Park has variety of life zones that support more plant species than any other national park in the United States. The park is committed to maintaining this native habitat to protect its vegetation, wildlife, endangered species and water resources. Prior to the completion of the greenhouse, the park nursery housed over 30,000 native plants without space for watershed restoration projects. With your help, we built a spacious, energy-efficient greenhouse that will support the entire vegetation program at Grand Canyon.
None of these projects would have been possible without you. The partnership between Grand Canyon Association and Grand Canyon National Park grows stronger every year. This is possible through your passion for Grand Canyon and the generous support you provide for projects like these. As we move into 2016 and begin to celebrate the National Park Service Centennial, we plan to do more than ever before. We hope you will continue helping us keep Grand Canyon GRAND.