Kirkpatrick asks BLM to help with 'Skywalk' bypass

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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick asked federal officials Friday to help an Arizona American Indian tribe with plans to build a "bypass" road to the Grand Canyon Skywalk amid an ongoing dispute with a rancher and a recent closure of a private road.

In a letter to U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Kirkpatrick asked the agency to expedite a permit application for the planned bypass to Hualapai lands. The tribe owns the Skywalk.

"We look forward to issuance of the permit and any other approvals that may be required to assure immediate public access in the short term, and timely completion of the road from Dolan Springs to the Hualapai Reservation in the long term," she wrote.

The letter comes as rancher Nigel Turner, who owns a tourist ranch along Diamond Bar Road, and authorities remain at odds over paving the road to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Turner wants to review plans and have them include fencing, cattle guards, and entrances to his property.

In the meantime, Turner closed off his road this week following his arrest for allegedly threatening construction workers.

Turner recently installed a roadblock and a toll on tour buses and cars that traveled on the dirt road that crossed his land near Meadview. Diamond Bar Road crosses about one mile of his land before ending at Grand Canyon West on the Hualapai tribal land and the tribe's Skywalk that overlooks the canyon.

Turner is charging tourists what he calls an entry fee to his western ranch that includes an hourly rodeo show, gun range, museum and other activities. It costs $20 per adult and $10 per child. Turner told The Associated Press that he instituted a toll because his "land has been abused for 13 years."

The tribe wants to create a temporary dirt roadway that bypasses a checkpoint on Turner's private road.

The Kingman Daily News reported this week that Turner was arrested for allegedly threatening construction workers.

The one-mile section of Diamond Bar Road that goes across his property was closed off Wednesday to all traffic. The tribe is working with the federal government to seek an injunction against the closure, Hualapai tribe spokesman Dave Cieslak said.