To the Editor:
I have been reading with some interest the various articles about the Arches National Park plan for handling the park’s unbelievable traffic problem, much of it in response to the highly successful advertising campaign lauding the five Utah national parks. Mr. Liss’ suggestions seem a bit far-fetched to me and certainly the timeline he envisions sounds pretty unrealistic.
In the last year or so of my term as Moab’s mayor (1998-2002), I had an opportunity to participate in the
stakeholders’ meetings to discuss the removal of the uranium tailings pile. At that time, it was my understanding that, while the pile actually “belonged” to the Department of Energy, it was assumed that it would eventually be turned over to Grand County for whatever community-serving project seemed to offer the best use of it. One of the many suggestions being considered was a central transportation area which would be the focus for both shuttles to Arches NP and a possible bus project to and from Moab’s business district. Undoubtedly, Mr. Liss (though not a local resident at the time) was in the area applying for approval for his Cloud Rock project on Johnson’s Up-on-Top and would have seen mention in the newspaper of the suggested options for the use of that land. He did not “invent” the concept of using it for a transportation center, however.
After my term as mayor ended, I had the privilege of serving from 2002 to 2015 as library manager for the NPS Southeastern Utah Group’s library system. Although not an official NPS employee, I had the chance to attend a number of meetings to discuss solutions to the park congestion problems, which were a serious matter even then and have only become worse. I was impressed with the depth of Superintendent Kate Cannon’s exploration of all possible solutions to this problem that long ago. I have the utmost admiration for her dedication and willingness to make the wisest decision she can. She is a thorough and thoughtful administrator of the parks, as well as a valuable member of this community, and therefore has a vested interest in addressing the issue in terms of not just the effect on the parks but the community, as well.
I have had occasion recently to talk with a number of visitors to our area and have heard their complaints about the crowding at Arches. If word about Arches National Park’s overcrowding becomes its “national reputation,” park visitation numbers will drop and that will seriously affect local businesses far into the future. I believe that the risk to Moab’s economy is far greater if the park doesn’t implement the reservation plan.
I know that the park service will continue to work with the community for the best method to address the obvious congestion while serving park visitors and managing resources, but something needs to be done now. The reservation system is rather a simple fix and can easily be replaced once a more satisfactory plan is found.
I truly feel that visitors will be willing to overlook the inconvenience of a reservation system if they know that the park service is doing its best to find a better long-term solution.