by Charles Baker – Editor
"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." - John Muir
Sunset along the West Rim of Zion
As hikers, and specifically as ALDHA-West members, we love the outdoors and have an interest in preserving and maintaining the great wilderness areas of our nation. As Kate “Drop-n-Roll” Hoch declared; “It is now more important than ever to take a stand and fight for public lands.” “Continue to make your voice heard.” (Gazette, December 7, 2017, “I Continue to Stand for Public Lands).
Recently, I ran across a notice by the National Park Service regarding a proposal to redesign the Zion National Park South Entrance Fee Station. As an advocate for this beautiful national treasure, my interest was peaked. Here is another opportunity for me, as a long-distance hiker, to voice my opinion and respond to a request for input from those managing this project.
There are a few questions you may ask yourself as you formulate a response to this type project:
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed project?
- Are there any specific issues or concerns that should be addressed in the environmental assessment of this project?
- Are there other options, alternative, or information that should be considered?
- Do I have any other comments or suggestions for consideration of the project?
It is always best to research these issues for yourself and develop your thoughts, opinions, and recommendations. The following background information may help as a starting point in your analysis.
Hiker taking in the view near the east entrance of Zion
Visitation to Zion National Park has increased significantly and is straining the existing infrastructure and has resulted in longer wait times to enter the park, specifically at the South Entrance Station. During 2016, the tenth busiest day of that year had a 324 vehicle/hour demand on the gate. The fee station has a capacity of only 194 vehicles/hour. The traffic congestion at this gate is frequently one-quarter to one-half mile in length. On busy days, the traffic line can backup all the way to the neighboring town of Springdale, UT. Visitors to the park can wait in this traffic line for up to an hour just to enter the park! As a visitor to the park, think how frustrating this could be; and the exhaust emissions have got to be horrible! Also, park fee rangers try to expedite the process by “roving” this queue, putting themselves in danger.
The Utah Department of Transportation analyzed this situation in 2016 and summarized that an additional entry lane could increase the number of vehicles processed/hour by 50%, fully accommodating current park entry demands. As such, the National Park Service is proposing a redesign of the Entrance Station and the roadway. The proposal recommends adding additional traffic lanes leading into and out of the park, increasing the number and size of the fee booths, traffic islands, an employee parking lot, a shade structure to cover the fee booths – complete with solar panels, and two culverts for stormwater runoff.
Hiking the east rim in Zion
You are invited, even encouraged, to review this project and submit your thoughts, ideas, and comments regarding its purpose and scope by the deadline of March 1, 2018. The National Park Service website is a great place to start your research, but other resources may be found through a simple web search.
Comments may be submitted in writing, before the March 1, 2018, deadline, to the project Superintendent, or, easily entered on the following website:
"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds." - Edward Abbey