GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - A plan to ban the sale of disposable water bottles inside Grand Canyon National Park may have hit a roadblock in late 2010, but officials with the Park Service said 2012 may still see the bottles a thing of the past inside the park boundaries.
Former Grand Canyon Superintendent Steve Martin spearheaded the plan to curtail the sale of disposable water bottles in late 2010. National Park Service (NPS) Director John Jarvis blocked the plan just two weeks before it was scheduled to take effect.
In a November New York Times story, former Superintendent Steve Martin said his plan was curtailed after Coca-Cola expressed concern about the plan, contacting the National Park Foundation who in turn contacted Jarvis.
David Barna, NPS spokesman, said the Regional Director in the Denver office did not approve the plan. He added the plan caught NPS Director John Jarvis by surprise.
"Certainly he was caught by surprise by Coke calling the foundation and the foundation calling him," Barna said. "He was not aware that Grand Canyon and Steve Martin was going to do this and didn't feel it was an appropriate decision, at least for a big park, to be made by a superintendent without some input from the region or Washington."
Barna said the park service has been moving in an environmentally conscious direction and plans to roll out a comprehensive "Green Parks" plan sometime in the spring.
In a memo to Regional Park directors dated Dec. 14, Jarvis laid out a policy that will allow superintendents to halt the sale of disposable water bottles only after completing an impact analysis that includes an assessment of effects on visitor health and safety. A written analysis must be forwarded to the applicable regional director for approval.
Shannan Marcak, public affairs specialist at Grand Canyon, said the park is moving forward under the new guidelines.
"Our plan is to look at the evaluative process outlined in the new policy. We're doing that now," she said. "We're trying to make sure we've taken care of all the evaluation that is necessary. Once we've done so we plan to work with the region to move forward with the goal of eliminating the sale of water packaged in disposable plastic bottles in 2012."
A total of 10 water bottle filling stations have been installed around the park, seven located on the South Rim and three on the North Rim.
The Grand Canyon Association has already voluntarily stopped the sale of bottled water in their facilities. Marcak said all major concessionaires and park partners have been supportive of Grand Canyon's efforts.
"When we put in our filling stations, Delaware North put in filling station in each of their Marketplaces," Marcak said. "In fact, theirs were completed before ours were. Xanterra did some rehab work on the Maswik Lodge early this year and included a new filling station at the cafeteria and has been converting fountains and sinks in public areas - particularly food service areas - to have bottle friendly spigots. So, this has definitely been a team effort all along."
Barna said media coverage of Coca-Cola's possible role in Grand Canyon's water bottle plan definitely influenced the early issuance of the disposable water bottle sale guidelines.
"Absolutely, because of the press interest in this and the controversy, Jarvis decided to go ahead and make that decision now and come out in advance of the Green Parks plan," he said, adding that Jarvis never talked with officials from Coca-Cola directly, before or after the water bottle controversy.
According to Barna, Coca Cola's contribution to the National Park Foundation has totaled around $13 million on local, state and federal levels over the last 40 years. He estimated the company is currently contributing less than $100,000 per year to the foundation.
"We don't really know," he said. "We don't get involved with that. It kind of keeps it all really clean. We're not aware of the dollars. We're a $3 billion agency. The thought that Jarvis is going to sell out the Park Service for any amount of money is ludicrous."
In discussions with Grand Canyon Public Affairs Officer Maureen Oltrogge, Barna said the park's request to halt the sale of disposable bottles will likely be approved.
"We can't really see anything here that the Grand Canyon hasn't already done," Barna said.
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