Settlement paves way for new road to Canyon Skywalk 7-07

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Grand Canyon's glass-bottom Skywalk is seen prior to the First Walk ceremonies on the Hualapai Reservation at Grand Canyon West, Ariz. in this Tuesday, March 20, 2007 file photo. The Skywalk tourist destination will be more easily accessible to vehicular traffic as a road construction agreement was recently reached to pave the 14 miles of rough, dusty dirt road that leads to Hualapai Nation land and the Skywalk.

PHOENIX (AP) - A bumpy, unpaved road that leads to the Grand Canyon's newest attraction will be paved, the Hualapai Indian tribe that hosts the new glass-bottom Skywalk said.

The tribe said it has finally reached an agreement with a nearby landowner to pave the old 14-mile (22.5-kilometer) road, despite an earlier lawsuit.

"It's such a relief," said Sherri Yellowhawk, CEO of the Grand Canyon Resort Corporation, the business arm of the tribe. "Usually (tourists) are upset by the time they get there."

About 100,000 people have visited the massive, horseshoe-shaped observation deck over the canyon since it opened in March.

The Skywalk offers straight-down views 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) above the canyon floor and is an important source of income for the Hualapai, who rely on tourist dollars, and David Jin, the Las Vegas businessman who paid for its construction.

But bringing people to the remote western edge of the canyon has been difficult.

The Hualapai wanted to pave the road for years, Yellowhawk said, but Nigel Turner, who owns the Grand Canyon West Ranch, blocked the construction with a lawsuit.

Turner said he worried the road would endanger the ancient Joshua trees, some of which are a few centuries old, and would transform the region into a busy tourist center like the canyon's popular south rim.

The Hualapai recently paid Turner $750,000 (euro544,188) to settle the lawsuit and will pay $20 million (euro14.5 million) to improve the road, which will stay open during construction.