Ranch owner fights tribe, feds over access to Grand Canyon attraction

June 6, 2013 at 4:18 PM
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PHOENIX, June 6 (UPI) -- A ranch owner says he's barring access on his land to a Grand Canyon attraction to protest the U.S. government's failure to honor a settlement on another route.

Nigel Turner is trying to block construction of the new road to the Grand Canyon Skywalk that is being built north of unpaved Diamond Bar Road on his property.

On Tuesday, he was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of threatening and intimidation for a fight involving a construction worker, The Arizona Republic in Phoenix reported Thursday. A Mohave County sheriff's official said Turner allegedly told the worker he had a gun, but authorities did not find one.

Tourists traveled for free on the road on Nigel Turner's Grand Canyon Ranch Resort, a dude ranch, to reach the Grand Canyon Skywalk until May 25, when he began charging a fee and had armed guards enforcing a toll of $20 per person or $500 per tour bus.

Turner maintains he is within his rights as a private landowner to charge a toll for vehicles traveling to the attraction, operated by Hualapai Tribe, the Republic said.

"We have to do this," Turner said. "People pay good money to come here. We're protecting our guests, our future."

Members of the Hualapai Tribe expressed outrage.

"The things that are going on here are really hurting our tourists," tribal Chairwoman Sherry Counts said Wednesday. "They're coming out here being threatened, intimidated. This is not the kind of business we want to run."

The tribe is working on developing another route for visitors, the Republic said.

Turner said he will reopen the road if the tribe halts construction of the temporary route, which he says is kicking up dust and creating dangerous conditions for his helipad operation.

On May 14, Turner's attorney filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Phoenix seeking enforcement of terms in a 2007 settlement in which the U.S. government agreed to pay Turner $750,000 for the right of way to construct a new road. Turner agreed to give the public access to Diamond Bar Road during construction.

His attorney argued in court documents the government erred by not completing the project on time and not including provisions required by the 2007 agreement, such as access to the ranch and underpasses for horses, cattle and riders.

A judge hasn't ruled on Turner's motion.

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