Rancher near Grand Canyon arrested; allegedly threatened construction workers

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. -- A northern Arizona rancher who has been charging tourists to drive through his land to reach the Grand Canyon Skywalk has been arrested, accused of threatening construction workers.

Mohave County Sheriff's Spokeswoman Trish Carter says deputies arrested Nigel Turner Tuesday afternoon, after he allegedly told construction workers he had a gun.

Carter says Turner faces a misdemeanor charge of threatening or intimidating. She says he was released from jail after posting bail late Tuesday night.

This is the same rancher who's been causing controversy by charging tourists for access to the Grand Canyon.

The Canyon's Skywalk hosts thousands of tourists each year. But members of the Hualapai tribe say Turner has been forcing tourists to pay to pass through.

Witnesses say he's had an armed guard at his checkpoint. Demonstrators claim it's a public road, and have gathered at the site, yelling, "Highway robbery! Highway robbery!" 

Tribal officials brought the issue to Mohave County Supervisors. "That is outrageous," says Sherry Counts, Tribal Chairwoman. Others wondered: "Why is he penalizing the traveling public? These people are on vacation."

Turner operates the Grand Canyon Ranch Resort, and claims he has the right to collect tolls. His newly imposed fees? $20 per adult, $10 per child, and $500 per bus load.

Tour companies told county officials that his actions are running them out of business. "We've been incurring more than $100K in toll fees," says Jennifer Turner of GC Resort Corp. 

And that's just since Memorial Day. People working with the tribe in Northern Arizona say tourists are being fleeced by a greedy ranch owner.

"Every day, we estimate he's collecting $20-$30K," says tribal spokesman Dave Cieslak. "This is the ultimate shakedown of tourists going on."

The government paid the rancher $750K for the rights to pave a road through his land. But that project was never finished. And now he says that gives him the right to charge tourists to use the dirt road.