The construction of Moab’s first commercial zip line could begin in the coming month on the sandstone fins next to Slick Rock Trail. Grand County Council will accept public comment until Tuesday, Nov. 6 before releasing a conditional use permit.
“If all goes well we expect to start building by mid to late November,” said Casey Bynum, the owner of Moab Zip Line Adventure.
Moab Zip Line Adventure plans to open its store front on the north side of the intersection of Hwy. 191 and 500 West, across from Denny’s. From there customers will travel two miles, by ATV, up the access trail and into the sandstone bluffs that border the Sand Flats Recreation Area.
The groups will include two guides and between 10 and 16 clients. Each group will take about two hours to complete a course comprised of a circuit of six zip lines, ranging from 290 feet to 1240 feet in length. Though the zip lines are on private land, the final zip line will carry clients over Slickrock Trail. A portion of Slickrock Trail will also have to be moved around 60 feet to provide an adequate buffer for another section of zip line.
The idea for this project came to Bynum after riding a zip line in Costa Rica while vacationing there with his family several years ago. Believing that it would be a great fit for Moab, Bynum got in touch with Mark and Mike Steen, descendents of Uranium King and Moab patron Charlie Steen. Bynum was already friends with the Steens and had done business with them in the past.
After convincing the Steens of the idea’s merit, they hired Seattle-based Arial Designs to engineer the course, which will be located on the Steen’s 300-acre parcel. The property includes the Sunset Grill and is surrounded on three sides by the Sand Flat Recreation Area. The area of and beneath the course will take up 53 acres, 26 of which are within Moab’s city limits.
Due to its location, the Moab Zip Line Adventure had to get approval from not only Grand County, but also from the City of Moab and the Utah Department of Public Transportation (UDOT). Though each of these bodies has made several requests and recommendations, all of the groups have supported the project so far.
The management of Sand Flats Recreation Area was also consulted.
“We had several meetings with the BLM and zip lines folks,” said Andrea Brand, program manager at SFRA.
Following these meetings, the Sand Flats Stewardship Committee reviewed the county’s May 9, 2012 site map and recommendations and has agreed with the county’s positive assessment.
In an effort to ensure that the zip lines are as unobtrusive as possible, the county and Moab Zip Line Adventure agreed that none of the course (poles, cables, etc.) will be visible from Hwy 191, Potash Rd., Mill Creek Rd., or Spanish Valley Dr. Moab Zip Line Adventure will also be painting everything except the lines themselves in earth tone, non-reflective paint.
“We worked a lot with the county to make it a minimalist course,” Bynum said.
Though Moab Zip Line Adventure has taken steps to minimize its footprint, several questions have been raised about the impact the zip line will have on Sand Flats Recreation Area’s other users.
“It’s definitely going to be a different feel up there, with towers and lines overhead,” Brand said.
Several questions go beyond the course itself, centering on the access trail that the Moab Zip Line Adventure plans to expand to bring its clients to the zip lines.
“One of the most important things to the BLM is that there would be no other access (to Sand Flats Recreation Area),” Brand said. The BLM wants to ensure that there is no way for people to enter without going through the fee station. Moab Zip Line Adventure has assured officials that zip liners and Sand Flats Recreation Area’s other visitors remain separated.
This request by the BLM to limit access to the ATV trail has caused contention with several groups, who worry that their use to the area may be at risk. The concern is that the arrival of Moab Zip Line Adventure will mean restricted public access to the La Sal Mountain Cattle Trail, a trail which dates back to the 1880s. A key section of the Cattle Trail will be converted into the Moab Zip Line Adventure’s ATV access trail.
“It’s the only natural way to get through the fins short of climbing a cliff face,” said McKay Edwards, the developer and owner of Moab Springs Ranch, who has been worried by the lack of consultation by Moab Zip Line Adventure. Before last Monday, Edwards was unaware of the plans to open a zip line on the neighboring property. He fears that he and the owners of the 19 town homes that make up Moab Springs Ranch (an additional 23 homes have been approved, purchased and await construction), along with the other Moab residents who regularly use the trail, will no longer be able to.
“I dedicated a public trail easement through my property (on the Cattle Trail) when I got this land and I want to be sure the whole trail stays open,” Edwards said. He is also concerned about how the new road will affect storm drainage into the Ranch.
Bynum responds that the Moab Zip Line Adventure trail will not cause any drastic change to the way that people have historically accessed the area.
Sandy Freethey, the Grand County Trail Mix committee chair, shares Edwards’s concerns about access to Cattle Trail, but is optimistic.
“(Moab Zip Line Adventure) has been good to work with so far, so I hope we can agree on a way that people can maintain access (to the Trail). I think we can find an amicable solution,” Freethey said.
Trail Mix also hopes to open more bike trails in the area around the Moab Zip Line Adventure.
The county’s public comment period will be open until Wednesday, Nov. 6.