ASLA Online ASLA Online ASLA Onine American Society of Landscape Architects
ASLA Online ASLA Online ASLA Online What's New Contact Us Site Map Search


right click to download print version
right click to download print version
right click to download print version

Grand Canyon Greenway Master Plan
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The Grand Canyon Greenway Collaborative: Chuck Flink, ASLA; Jeff Olson, AIA; Bob Searns, AICP; Peter Axelson; Dan Burden; Mark Fenton; Andy Clarke; Ben Pugh, PE; Betty Drake, APA; Bob Pilk, ASLA; Brad Traver; Gigi Wright; Superintendent Robert Arnberger; The Grand Canyon National Park Foundation

Charles A. Flink, ASLA
President, Greenways Incorporated
5318 Highgate Drive, Suite 231
Durham, NC 27713
Tel. 919-484-8448;
Fax 919-484-3003

Project Purpose

Designated as a World Heritage Site in 1979, Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Nearly 5.5 million people enter the park each year. In the next ten years, the number of visitors will increase to more than 7 million annually. The majority of park facilities were designed and built in the 1960s when the annual visitation exceeded 1 million people. The consequence of the rapid increase in visitation has been the degradation of the visitor experience and impacts on the park environment. One of the biggest issues facing Grand Canyon has been how to best meet the increasing visitation while protecting the features that make the park unique in the world. To address these challenge, the National Park Service developed the Grand Canyon National Park General Management Plan (GMP), an ambitious effort to reduce congestion and provide visitors with the tools they need to experience the park in a better way. Solutions in the GMP include public transit, a reconfiguration of roads and parking areas, and offering alternative modes of visitor travel within the park. In January 1997, a volunteer team of leading greenway designers was recruited by the Grand Canyon National Park superintendent and President of the Grand Canyon National Park Foundation to assist the Park in carrying out one of the most important concept of the GMP - establishment of the Grand Canyon Greenway. The volunteer team assembled at the Park and immediately began to identify ways to design and implement the Greenway element of the GMP. The Greenway will offer a much-needed alternative. Instead of driving to a crowded rim-side parking lot, people will be able to set out from new transportation hubs by bike, foot or in a wheelchair. They will be able to access a more diverse array of park attractions and a more traditional outdoor experience. In short, the Greenway will help return the serenity, solitude and awe-inspiring visitation experiences that are slowly being lost amid the crush of visitation. The Grand Canyon Greenway when completed will total 72 miles of new trails, located on the South (31 miles) and North (35 miles) Rims of the Park. As part of this system, a new gateway trail will extend from the town of Tusayan to the Canyon View Information Center on the South Rim (7 miles). The Greenway system will include informational gateways with user information and descriptions of challenge levels, mile markers, and interpretive displays that describe the history, ecology, geology and cultural background of the Grand Canyon. With approval from the National Park Service and the Foundation, the volunteer team is now moving forward with a pilot project. It will be a "proof of concept" demonstrating the benefits of the ultimate system. Construction of the proof of concept project is scheduled to begin in mid-2001.

Role of Landscape Architect

The Landscape Architect was one of the three team leaders for this project, and was the principal in charge of the Design Subgroup, plan production, and lead the entire team in making presentations to the client. The Landscape Architect organized other volunteers into working teams to conduct fieldwork throughout the North and South Rim landscapes. The Landscape Architect established the planning process for all work completed by the team. He prepared many of the design recommendations that are featured in the master plan document.



The Landscape Architect was also challenged to develop a quick and efficient reporting format that would capture the work of the volunteer team while assembled on four separate occasions over a three-year period at the national park. He established a "virtual office" while at the Park and employed a variety of digital tools including computers, digital cameras, digital scanners and various software programs to record and transmit the work of the team. This efficiency enabled the team to reach quick decisions and finalize recommendations. The volunteer team assisted The Grand Canyon National Park Foundation and Grand Canyon National Park in raising approximately $1.9 million in federal transportation funds for the project. To date, the team and Foundation have raised more than $1.5 million from private contributors.

Significance of Project

Grand Canyon National Park has never had a system of interconnected trails purposefully designed and constructed to transport people throughout the park. The Greenway is the first network of trails and facilities designed to perform this function. In the opinion of the National Park Service, without this system, park resources would continue to be degraded as visitation increases. In fact, a trip to the Grand Canyon by the vast majority of visitors consists of carefully packaged tours, with staged photo opportunities, and little interaction with the park environment. The Greenway provides vital infrastructure that will engage the body, mind and spirit of visitors, and serve to define the sense of place that makes Grand Canyon one of the most unique landscapes on the planet. In the opinion of the Park Superintendent, without the efforts of the volunteer team, it is highly unlikely that the Greenway concept would have matured as quickly as it did into a functional project. Due to the current workload and federal cutbacks, the superintendent deemed it unlikely that the project would have ever received the attention it was due.

The Superintendent credited the team with extraordinary vision and the collective wherewithal and experience necessary to bring the project to life. The Grand Canyon Greenway became one of the flagship projects of the Clinton White House National Millennium Trails program, an effort to establish nationally significant trail projects throughout the nation. As part of this program, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton conducted a groundbreaking ceremony for the Grand Canyon Greenway in April 1999. As the Grand Canyon system comes on line, it is expected that other national parks, including Yosemite, Yellowstone and Smoky Mountains, will embrace this non-auto model, and that this will in turn alter the way visitors enter, view and enjoy America's national parks.

Special Factors

The document can only partially convey the total work of the team. As volunteers, the design team donated more than $250,000 worth of professional services to the Grand Canyon National Park over the period of four years (1997-2000). In February 2001, the Grand Canyon Greenway project was awarded the first annual Harvey Bell Memorial Award for Excellence in Trail Design from the Western Trail Builders Association (WTBA). The WTBA cited the work of the volunteer team as "the most significant in the nation," and "positively altering the face of trail design forever."

2001 Award Winners
Press Release
Copyright  1995-2000 by The American Society of Landscape Architects