Monday, September 12, 2011

On the Edge III: The 1990's, heading to the 1950's

The development of the Mather Point area described in my previous posts has its origins at least in the 1970's, a time when I was very active trying to convince the Park Service not to spread intense development outside the Village. In particular, many of us thought that there could be work done at Mather to bring about a more natural condition as an approach to a first-time rim view. That discussion seems to have been put on hold in the 1980's, to be revived in the 1990's, a time when I was not active. However, I do have a copy of a major document from 1995 -- a Draft General Management Plan Environmental Impact Statement. It provides five alternative views, and given the date, perhaps provides us a midway point view between what the Mather Point area has actually become, and the proposals of the 1970's that we did not think were good enough.
What I am going to do in this entry is present the maps for Mather Point from the DGMPEIS to illustrate how NPS structured its field of decision-making.
There was a no-action alternative, the 1995 "as was" situation. The second was titled "minimum requirements", but seems very little different. For comparison purposes, I put a "reduced development" alternative next, which seems very little different from the first two. The "proposed action" is next, followed by an "increased development" alternative, which when presented this way, look like a one-two knock-out to the idea that people could approach the Canyon rim at Mather in a "natural" first-view framework.

First, here is the legend:

Now MP1, the 1995 scene:
MP1 is the only view that includes the Village since the document has no map for Mather Point as the other alternatives do.

MP2, the minimum needed:
MP3, decreased development, was to look like this:
MP4, what NPS proposed, has a lot more going on, especially the orientation and transit centers, which were to bring visitors to the point where they could approach the rim by foot path:

MP5,in which "increased development" seems to mean more parking:
And here is the plan view of what has just actually been completed. Something quite odd has happened:
This plan is of course even more up close than the five maps above. Lets pull back a bit for the context and comparison:

So what appears to have happened is that NPS scrapped the idea of parking lots moved away from the rim, and instead took the parking lots of the last two alternatives, re-sized them, and moved them across the entrance road, much closer to the rim, particularly the lot for tour buses. So the area nearer the rim, which even in the "most developed" 1995 scenario seemed to be left in a more natural state with foot trails, has now been dedicated to the motor vehicle. Yes, cars can no longer get right to Mather, but in moving the parking a short distance back, the lots swelled in size and developed area. In short, from the evidence of the1995 plan, NPS in 2011 seems to have taken a giant lurch back to the 1950's idea that cars rule. Instead of visitors encountering the orientation center walking from transport toward the rim, they can move directly from car to view.

There is more to be said about the 1995 plan and what happened to its ideas about transit, but for the present it is enough to contemplate an NPS mentality epitomized by the  "Commercial Bus Lot" snuggling right up to Mather Point. Too bad the land slopes away from the rim; otherwise bus passengers could enjoy the view while staying in air conditioned comfort.

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