GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. — The Grand Canyon National Park is considering recreating a river unit that was dismantled 16 months ago following a report by a federal watchdog that found a longstanding pattern of sexual harassment there.

Park employees presented a draft of their plan to reinstate river operations at a community meeting in Flagstaff on Tuesday, the Arizona Daily Sun reported (http://bit.ly/2tQdQts). The unit was responsible for supporting a variety of river trips including those for canyon patrols. It also provided emergency and medical services along the Colorado River.

Under the proposed changes, the river district would operate as an independent work group within the park and would be overseen by a newly created river operations manager, who reports directly to the superintendent.

The group’s responsibilities will also be updated. The group would be responsible for evaluating trip participants, reviewing post-trip reports and reporting any concerns to the superintendent.

Environmental Protection Specialist Rachel Bennett, who was part of the group that drafted the changes, said that the hope is that the shorter chain of command will improve communication and ensure that potential issues could reach management more quickly.

A January 2016 report by the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General stated that some river district male employees had sexually harassed their female counterparts. Inspector General’s report found that harassment complaints were not properly reported or investigated after they were filed to park supervisors.

Grand Canyon River Guide Christa Sadler is not sure whether the efforts will be enough to ensure that sexual harassment and workplace hostility do not enter the new river operation.

“That is going to take something different than just reorganizing the river unit,” she said. “It’s going to take a sea change in the way we see our fellow workers, the way we look at power, the way we see the relationship between men and women. It’s a much bigger cultural thing.”

The employees plan to present their final recommendation to the park superintendent and the Park Service regional office by August.


Information from: Arizona Daily Sun, http://www.azdailysun.com/