The debate continues regarding the “swarmingly” successful advertising campaigns called “The Mighty Five” and “The Road to the Mighty Five.” One group seems to want to entice more national and international vacationers to southeastern Utah, and another says, “We are being loved to death.”
Moab is growing in a way that is totally obliterating its small-town feeling and atmosphere. Buildings are getting larger, taller and out of scale and design compatibility matching a rural town composed of a 6,500 year-round population. Local grocery stores struggle to keep food on the shelves and in the deli. Things I regularly purchase are nonexistent. I have gone to one of the two market delis at 12:30 and found it to be totally wiped out. For one group, the answer to the numbers game is more stores, more hotels, more restaurants, more vendors, more, more, more. Capitalism at its finest. A living wage, lack of affordable housing and available qualified employees are the downsides to the “more” scenario.
What I heard from several of the contributors to last week’s Access Utah’s pre-Earth Day dialogue was that managing the crowds and educating the public is the solution. I work where I encounter visitors. One visitor, a bicycler from Colorado, was vocally airing his disgust at the “Throttle Down…” “Don’t Bust the Crust,” “Leave No Trace” and other restrictions we are trying to place on the abundance of vacationers. Evidently, he wanted to do what he wanted, where and when he wanted and how he wanted. Is that the norm or an anomaly? How are we to manage and change those desires?
Do we think that the majority of visitors from busy, fast-paced cities are really interested in preserving the magnificent land in and out of the national, state and county parks and BLM land that are abundant in southeastern Utah? A majority of tourists are here to maximize the few days or weeks they have to see and do everything they can. Others want to get away from the increased crowds, so they are being pushed farther and farther into the backcountry. Not all are educated or want to be. More are escaping from their existence, not making a pilgrimage to extraordinary beauty.
Has the carrying capacity of Moab and vicinity been exceeded? Are resources at their limits? Is that what being loved to death means to our future?