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Grand Canyon continues to inspire deep connections, 100 years later

There aren’t many things in the world that have aged quite as well as the Grand Canyon.

The land and river, within what we now know as the Grand Canyon National Park, have created a unique and intimate relationship with 11 park-recognized Native American tribes in the area. The layered maroon, tan and brown crust translates feet into centuries, and holds stories and knowledge about the Earth’s past for those working to uncover its secrets.

The Colorado River and deep canyon walls have enthralled thrill seekers looking to hike, camp and raft through the bottom of the canyon. The park is also home to various animal species.

The canyon’s grandiose quality has compelled more than 211 million people to travel from around the world to the park since its creation 100 years ago on Feb. 26, 1919. On Tuesday, the Grand Canyon National Park Service will host celebrations for the parks' 100-year anniversary, covering everything people have come to enjoy about the land it protects.

Generations of park rangers, and the canyon’s many supporters, have worked to protect the land from modification.

Stephen Mather, the first National Park Service director who passed away in 1930, worked closely on the Grand Canyon National Park's trails and access points. Later, Mather Point at the Grand Canyon was named after him.

“The parks do not belong to one state or to one section. ... The Yosemite, the Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon are national properties in which every citizen has a vested interest,” Mather said, according to the National Park Service. ”They belong as much to the man of Massachusetts, of Michigan, of Florida, as they do to the people of California, of Wyoming, and of Arizona.”

A small portion of two billion years

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Ken Phillips is a former chief of the National Park Service’s emergency services and former search and rescue coordinator for the Grand Canyon.

Many National Park Service rangers monitor vegetation and land to anticipate and spot the presence of damage, while also being expected to help recreationalists.

Ken Phillips, a retired backcountry ranger, chief of emergency services and search and rescue coordinator, spent more than 30 years working in the Grand Canyon.

Phillips consistently worked to save people from the misfortunes of either bad planning and bad luck. Before hiking the canyon, hikers are expected to understand and prepare for the harsh conditions. Phillips said the hot temperatures in the summer and river rapids turned him into a pessimist on the job when searching for lost people.

One instance that Phillips remembers is when a hiker at the bottom of the canyon was struck by lightning. Lightning strikes happen up to 25,000 times per year in the park, according to the National Park Service. 

"It is a dangerous place,” Phillips said. “This place has a lot of ways to kill you.”

But despite his pessimism, he still has love for the Canyon. Phillips said he met and married his wife in the Grand Canyon, raised his kids into lovers of it and still is moved when standing at the rim.

“I appreciate looking at it every time I’m here,” Phillips said. “I really don’t like to come to Grand Canyon and not come out to the rim. I kind of feel cheated.”

Steve Hatch, owner of Hatch River Expeditions, is a third-generation river guide. He said his grandfather’s company was the first river guide company in the canyon and the first in the United States.

Hatch said he grew up on the Green River in Utah and started learning to row boats on the river at a young age. When he moved to the Grand Canyon, he began to work as a full-time guide for nearly 28 years.

“It’s difficult to describe how people will see or feel during their trip because it’s a personal experience, but you can see how people change afterward,” Hatch said. “They get the appreciation for the canyon and they want to go home and share their experience.”

Helen Ranney, Grand Canyon hiking guide, also worked several other jobs involving the Grand Canyon in some capacity. She said growing up, she did not feel at peace until she moved to the park.

Ranney refers to the steep jagged walls and open space of the place as her church, saying she sometimes travels to it for healing.

“The Canyon is part of who we are,” Ranney said. “Once it gets you, it doesn’t leave you. It’s with you forever.”   

Guardians of the Grand Canyon

The Havasupai Tribe is one of the many tribes that considers the Grand Canyon and its surrounding land sacred, with the Havasupai Reservation located next to the park. Most people live in Supai, which has become widely known for its turquoise waterfall — Havasupai Falls.

Coleen Kaska, councilmember of the Havasupai Tribe, said she and her ancestors have taken on the duty of being guardians of the Grand Canyon. She said before the park was established, they considered their lands to be both within and above the canyon.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Despite cold weather, tourists fill the observation area at Mather Point on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The creation of the park, she said, has created an obstacle for people within Supai from continuing their traditions on their homeland.

"Our future generations, we need to bring them out here to the Grand Canyon and introduce them to the area, the names, the spiritual sites, the sweat lodges, the dances that were done here on the rim," Kaska said. "There's a lot we need to catch up on; it's been 100 years."

She appreciates the land and beauty of the park, but for her there is more to her experience of looking out beyond the rim.

“When I look out there I can just see my people appreciating me being out there for them, the ones that have gone,” Kaska said. “Those types of feelings I always get when I look at the canyon.”

Now, she says children in Supai do not understand her when she describes the Grand Canyon because they have not experienced it themselves.

“I can see the little ones think, like, 'What is she talking about?' Just like I used to be when I was younger. I see that in their faces," Kaska said.

For Kaska the centennial has reminded her to fight harder for wider recognition of the Havasupai Tribe, including continuing to tell the stories of her people for those willing to listen.

Historic protections

Beyond the Grand Canyon National Park’s 100-year anniversary, this year also marks the 150-year anniversary of John Wesley Powell’s first river rafting trip through the canyon, according to author and Grand Canyon historian Don Lago.

Lago wrote "The Powell Expedition" and several other books about various parts of the Grand Canyon's history.

Lago believes Powell is one of the frontier heroes that has so-far withstood the test of time because he explored for science, not the ideas of westward expansion.

“Powell was different and loved it for the sake of science. He saw it as the Rosetta Stone of world geology,” Lago said.

Lago said that Powell’s perspectives about the canyon and water usage in the West weren’t popular while he was alive.

“His beliefs led to the visions where he realized the settlement practices were hopeless in the West," Lago said. "He tried to warn the country about that, and damaged his career in the process."

Before the land was protected with National Park status, many in Arizona did not want it protected, Lago said. Instead, many miners had staked out claims and saw the land through the lens of manifest destiny.

“The idea of taking land away from the pioneers and giving it to the park, that debate is still with us today,” Lago said. “The question of whether land should be privately owned for resource extraction and not for everyone’s enjoyment.”

That debate even bested President Theodore Roosevelt fought to protect the Grand Canyon. It took two more presidents before Woodrow Wilson was finally able to sign a bill from Congress on Feb. 26, 1919, awarding National Park status for the Canyon.

For Lago, his love of the Grand Canyon started when he was in Missouri. He came to the Canyon to continue his love of nature and geology. He sees his love of its history as just a different way of exploring it, similar to kayaking and hiking.

He hopes that the centennial will remind people of the purpose of the National Park Service and what could be here if the land was never protected.

“Its good to remind ourselves that it’s there and there’s nothing inevitable about national parks,” Lago said. “The South Rim of the canyon could just be miles of mansions and gated communities with security guards."

NAU child care program provides relief for student parents

While being a parent can be time-consuming, it can also be one of the most satisfying experiences in life.

Trying to earn a degree while raising a child, however, poses challenges at times. Northern Arizona University's Childcare Voucher Program hopes to provide some relief for student parents.

JJ Boggs, the manager of the Childcare Voucher Program, explained while NAU doesn’t have a child care facility, it provides voucher awards to student parents who qualify. These vouchers are used at approved child care facilities to offset the cost of care, something NAU has done since 2009.

“The primary objective of the program is to help student parents focus on their education and complete their degree,” Boggs said.

Boggs added that the parent identifies the facility they want to use, and it is up to NAU to get the facility approved so their voucher can be used at the chosen provider.

Daniel Ryan is one of the several student parents participating in the program while pursuing a doctorate in applied linguistics. Ryan’s daughter attends Eagles Crest Child Enrichment Center, a preschool program attached to Flagstaff Unified School District. Ryan discovered NAU had a stipend for local child care programs and said it was a big part of why he chose the university.

“This program is very rare; I don’t know any other university that offers this,” Ryan said. “It’s a big deal because if we didn’t get the stipend, then we wouldn’t be able to afford the preschool, and my family couldn’t afford to live here.”

According to Boggs, during fall 2018 the program had 24 parents and 31 kids participate, using 14 different child care facilities. The average stipend amount was $53 per child per week. During the current spring semester, there are 27 parents and 36 kids who qualified and are utilizing 12 different facilities, with the same average amount granted. The vouchers range from $35 to $65 per child every week.

Boggs said the program was initially funded through a grant from the Department of Education. Once the grant expired, NAU decided to continue funding it. Boggs added the funding has been consistent, averaging around $44,000 for the past few years.

A parent can apply for a child care voucher at any point in the semester, Boggs said. Qualifications include being a degree-seeking student enrolled for the current semester. Additionally, students have to qualify for a Federal Pell Grant.

Once these qualifications are met, the amount of the voucher is based on the number of credits the student is enrolled for the semester -- the more credits, the higher the stipend.

Claire Pringle, a parent in the process of earning a master’s degree in geology at NAU, said she discovered the program when researching places to take her son to daycare. She added that it was extremely influential in committing to the NAU graduate program.

“This collaboration has been such a blessing to our family,” Pringle said. “My husband works, and I am in classes and teaching throughout the week, so it was very important to us to find a safe and enjoyable place for our son.”

Pringle said that her son attends Head Heart Hands Preschool, a private institution. She said she does not have any family in Flagstaff, but is thankful to have Head Heart Hands as a second family that can care for her child.

Angela Riley, the director of Head Heart Hands, said they have collaborated with NAU for two years, and accept four to six kids annually. She said their program is the only full-inclusion preschool in northern Arizona, meaning they accept students with various special needs including autism, cognitive disabilities, physical disabilities and behavior issues.

Riley added that although it is a financial and emotional relief for the parents, their children benefit greatly as well.

“Kids are getting normal social and emotional skills along with academic knowledge,” Riley said. “They’re also learning empathy, tolerance and realizing that everyone learns differently.”

Gavin Wright, a parent pursuing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, said having his son attend Head Heart Hands has accelerated his social growth.

Before applying for the Childcare Voucher Program, Wright had been coordinating with his coworkers to take care of each other’s kids. He said it worked, but his son wasn’t getting the social exposure he gets at preschool and he wasn’t getting the academic benefit either.

“He’s learning how to communicate better,” Wright said. “He’s definitely blossoming here.”

Kalvina Belin, who is pursuing a master’s degree in public health, said her child attends FUSD FACTS, an afterschool program for children ages 5-12.

Belin has been receiving vouchers from NAU since 2017, and said FACTS has worked perfectly with her school schedule. She added that this aspect has helped her immensely.

“I don't have to worry about finding a babysitter, and it allows me to attend all my classes knowing that my baby is being taken care of,” Belin said.

Another preschool that collaborates with NAU is Foresight Learning Center. Beth Frost, the director and owner of the facility, has accepted stipends from NAU since the Childcare Voucher Program began in 2009.

Frost said the program helps parents and their children solidify roots in the community as parents make connections with other parents, and their kids make friends too.

“I can’t think of anything better than providing an opportunity to families that otherwise couldn’t afford it or don’t have the resources,” Frost said.

Ben Shanahan, Arizona Daily Sun 

Northern Arizona’s Carlos Hines (4) drives into an Eastern Washington defender Saturday in the Walkup Skydome.

Storm lands February among snowiest, wettest in Flagstaff history

While the forecast appears clear of any more snow through the end of February, the month will rank among Flagstaff’s wettest for some time.

In addition to the 35.9 inches of snowfall breaking the more than 100-year-old daily record, the storm itself and the month’s total also ranked among the top 10 of their respective charts, according to the National Weather Service.

With the storm totaling 40.8 inches from Wednesday night through Friday, it ranks eighth all-time in Flagstaff. The most recent storm ahead of this past week’s occurred in January 2010, with 54.2 inches of snow falling in a six-day span. The top storm remains an outlier on the list, with 84.6 inches of snowfall from an eight-day storm in December 1967.

Thanks to the snowfall in the past few weeks, the 71.3 inches since Feb. 1 places the month sixth all-time. The total ranks second to 1901 for February's record and is the most snowfall for a single month since March 1991 produced 79.4 inches.

In the perspective of a full year, the 103.7 inches since Sept. 1 stand 33.9 inches above normal. Should the next three months produce their average expected snowfall, the season’s total could end up among the top 15 snowiest years on record.

The records are not limited to snowfall either, with February's current precipitation of 6.51 inches ranking fourth all-time for February and 25th for any month in the year, summer or winter. Currently at 8.9 inches of precipitation in just two months, 5.09 above normal, Flagstaff is nearly to its annual mean of 20.56 for January to December with 10 months remaining.

Mueller: Manafort 'brazenly violated the law' for years

WASHINGTON — Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort committed crimes that cut to "the heart of the criminal justice system" and over the years deceived everyone from bookkeepers and banks to federal prosecutors and his own lawyers, according to a sentencing memo filed Saturday by special counsel Robert Mueller's office.

In the memo, submitted in one of two criminal cases Manafort faces, prosecutors do not yet take a position on how much prison time he should serve or whether to stack the punishment on top of a separate sentence he will soon receive in a Virginia prosecution. But they do depict Manafort as a longtime and unrepentant criminal who committed "bold" crimes, including under the spotlight of his role as campaign chairman and later while on bail, and who does not deserve any leniency.

"For over a decade, Manafort repeatedly and brazenly violated the law," prosecutors wrote. "His crimes continued up through the time he was first indicted in October 2017 and remarkably went unabated even after indictment."

Citing Manafort's lies to the FBI, several government agencies and his own lawyer, prosecutors said that "upon release from jail, Manafort presents a grave risk of recidivism."

The 25-page memo, filed in federal court in Washington, is likely the last major filing by prosecutors as Manafort heads into his sentencing hearings next month and as Mueller's investigation approaches a conclusion. Manafort, who has been jailed for months and turns 70 in April, will have a chance to file his own sentencing recommendation next week. He and his longtime business partner, Rick Gates, were the first two people indicted in the special counsel's investigation. Overall, Mueller has produced charges against 34 individuals, including six former Trump aides, and three companies.

Manafort's case has played out in stark contrast to those of other defendants in the Russia investigation, such as former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, whom prosecutors praised for his cooperation and left open the possibility of no jail time.

Manafort pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy arising from his Ukrainian political consulting work and his efforts to tamper with witnesses. As part of that plea, he agreed to cooperate with Mueller's team, a move that could have helped him avoid a longer prison sentence. But within weeks, prosecutors say he repeatedly lied to investigators, including about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a business associate who the U.S. says has ties to Russian intelligence. That deception voided the plea deal.

The sentencing memo comes as Manafort, who led Donald Trump's 2016 campaign for several critical months, is already facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison in a separate tax and bank fraud case in Virginia. Mueller's team endorsed a sentence of between 19.5 and 24.5 years in prison in that case.

Prosecutors note that the federal guidelines recommend a sentence of more than 17 years, but Manafort pleaded guilty last year to two felony counts that carry maximum sentences of five years each.

Prosecutors originally filed a sealed sentencing memo on Friday, but the document was made public on Saturday with certain information still redacted, or blacked out.

In recent weeks, court papers have revealed that Manafort shared polling data related to the Trump campaign with Kilimnik. A Mueller prosecutor also said earlier this month that an August 2016 meeting between Manafort and Kilimnik goes to the "heart" of the Russia probe. The meeting involved a discussion of a Ukrainian peace plan, but prosecutors haven't said exactly what has captured their attention and whether it factors into the Kremlin's attempts to help Trump in the 2016 election.

Like other Americans close to the president charged in the Mueller probe, Manafort hasn't been accused of involvement in Russian election interference.