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6:11 AM Fri, Oct. 19th

Hualapai ask for new Skywalk road to bypass roadblock

KINGMAN - In order to route tourists around a roadblock obstructing a road to the Grand Canyon Skywalk, the Hualapai Tribe wants the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to speed up or sidestep the process for a new alignment of Diamond Bar Road.

Hualapai Tribe Spokesman Dave Cieslak confirmed the negotiations in an email Thursday morning.

"(This) would allow for immediate action of blading the BLM-owned roadway next to Mr. Turner's land and allow tourists from around the world to drive safely in the area - without facing an armed guard demanding $20 per person," Cieslak said.

"In addition, we call on the (Bureau of Indian Affairs) and Department of Interior to provide injunctive relief and get this roadblock removed. American citizens should be able to drive on a county road without fear of intimidation or outrageous tolls."

Diamond Bar Road is one of the best routes from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon West and the Skywalk tourist attractions. Turner closed the one-mile section that crosses his property to traffic on Tuesday and vowed to keep it closed until the Hualapai Tribe orders a contractor to remove road construction equipment from his property.

Turner says according to a 2007 settlement agreement with the federal government and Mohave County the old road right of way reverted back to him two years ago. He claims the right of way is now his property and he is liable for the safety of motorists crossing it.

That is why he put up the roadblock at the end of May and started charging an "attraction fee" of $20 per adult, $10 per child and $500 per tour bus. The fee gave motorists the right to cross his property and access to his ranch and its attractions, he said.

Turner stopped charging the fee when he shut down the road on Tuesday.

Cieslak said the tribe hopes to have the dirt road open by Monday, which is exactly what Turner is worried about.

"I'm not the bad guy here," Turner said. "It was never designed to be a dirt road. It was supposed to be a 45 mph highway built to federal highway standards."

The fight isn't about money or property, he said. It's about protecting history for the next generation.

"That's why I bought the ranch in the first place. I love the history of the old west and I wanted to preserve that," he said. That is why he sued the federal government and the county in 2003 over plans to improve Diamond Bar Road. He wanted to protect the fragile ecosystem of the canyon, its wildlife and history.

When the county and federal government settled with Turner in 2007, the roadway was moved from his property to the edge of a BLM parcel that abuts his land. The agreement also included underpasses for cattle, horses and wildlife and take into consideration the fragile ecosystem of the canyon.

But the tribe, county and federal government are not following the stipulations set down in the 2007 agreement, Turner said. He also claims that part of the road is misaligned and the construction is threatening the peace and safety of his customers.

Turner has several cabins on his property that he rents out to visitors. Some of those cabins are very close to where construction workers will have to blast away part of a butte. That blasting work should be done in the winter, not during the peak tourism months of the summer, Turner said.

"It's common sense. You can't blast near those cabins now," he said. "I'm trying to get things back on the right track. The ball is in their court. All I ask is that they make one phone call and stop working on the road."

At least until the environmental and safety impacts of the road construction can be reassessed, he said.

Until then, the roadblock stays up.