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They don't need no badges: Tourists bypass Grand Canyon blockade

A skywalk extends out over the Grand Canyon in this view from the incomplete building that houses the skywalk, on the Hualapai Indian Reserv
A skywalk extends out over the Grand Canyon in this view from the incomplete building that houses the skywalk, on the Hualapai Indian Reserv

By Tim Gaynor

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Tourist cars and buses resumed their bumpy run to a Grand Canyon tourist attraction run Tuesday, bypassing a roadblock set up last week by a dude rancher in a bitter access dispute.

The Hualapai tribe, which operates the canyon Skywalk viewing platform, built the bypass on federal land in Arizona and reopened the Diamond Bar Road to traffic.

Diamond Bar runs briefly through the Grand Canyon Ranch Resort, belonging to Nigel Turner. The former British Army helicopter pilot grew angry over delays affecting the construction of a separate improved road to the Skywalk for which he had granted an easement in 2007. In late May, Turner deployed armed guards to charge $20 per person and $500 per tour bus for the upward of 1,000 visitors a day who use the road before finally preventing entry altogether.

"For two weeks, thousands of people have been coming to the Grand Canyon to enjoy their vacations and have either been faced with an armed man collecting money from them or finding a roadblock and having to turn around," Hualapai Tribe spokesman Dave Cieslak said.

Hualapai Chairwoman Sherry J. Counts thanked Arizona U.S. Representatives Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democrat, and Paul Gosar, a Republican, for assisting the tribe in getting the necessary permit to complete work on the bypass.

Turner could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Prudence Crowther)

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