A glass bridge 4,000 feet above the Grand Canyon has become the center of a turf war between the businessman who built it and a small Native American tribe with rights to the land.
The Skywalk glass bridge and tourist center, built in 2006 by businessman David Jin, sits above the Colorado River in western Arizona, on lands that belong to the Hualapai Tribe. Jin and members of the tribe agreed in 2003 to allow the project to go forward, with Jin developing and managing the project while sharing profits with the tribe.
Members of the tribe’s council, however, have since changed their minds. The Hualapai Tribe council voted last week to use eminent domain law to take over control of the Skywalk and ban Jin’s involvement.
The two sides have been in a yearlong contract dispute that is in the court system. Jin has alleged that he hasn’t received his share of revenues, while the tribe contends Jin failed to complete a visitor center.
Jin has requested that the two sides enter into binding arbitration. In a June, 2011, letter to the editor in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jin said the eminent domain decision could affect the future of Native American business deals.
“The Hualapai people must decide if they will allow this eminent domain law to stand,” he wrote of a tribe that counts about 2,300 members. “If the Hualapai Tribal Council seizes my assets through eminent domain, it will impact tribal people far beyond the Hualapai borders. No businessperson will have confidence investing in tribal communities if the Hualapai Tribal Council shows the world that they will not honor the contracts they sign.”
Both sides agree that the bridge could attract up to 3,000 visitors a day. The one-of-a-kind horseshoe-shaped bridge extends 70 feet over the edge of a cliff, towering above the Colorado River and canyon floor thousands of feet below. The bridge has glass walls and a glass floor, allowing for 360 degree views of the canyon.
Neither Jin nor a representative for the Hualapai Tribe returned calls for comment.