As the owner of a small business in Moab which relies on the tourist dollar to stay afloat, I’ve followed the debate over a reservation plan at Arches National Park with interest. Here are my thoughts:
The National Park Service bears no responsibility to support local businesses via unlimited growth and unlimited use. Most National Park units predate the gateway communities near those parks. Businesses congregate because National Parks draw people.
Nowhere in the NPS mandate does it say that the managers of these special areas provide for the well-being of businesses outside their park boundaries. The National Park Service mandate does state that managers must protect the historic and natural features within park areas for the enjoyment of visitors now and in the future. Many parks have reached their carrying capacity. Park resources suffer irreparable harm and over-crowding makes it impossible for visitors to have a meaningful, memorable visit. Try visiting Zion, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Arches, Shenandoah or Glacier during peak season. It is beyond the pale. The congestion, the search for a parking spot, the noise, the trash, all make for a theme-park-like atmosphere rather than a contemplative, quiet experience which NPS areas previously provided.
Arches National Park will be a leader in park management by implementing a reservation system which provides visitors the opportunity to experience some level of solitude. Indeed, by spreading out visitation throughout the day, I argue that local businesses may actually see increased revenue. The average visitor at Arches goes through the gate between 9 a.m. and noon. They spend two to three hours, then speed their way to the next stop on the Grand Circle. With a reservation system dispersing use, visitors perhaps will spend an extra day in Moab. Those entering the park later in the day won’t have time to get to Cortez or Flagstaff that same day and may well enjoy the amenities Moab offers.
The Grand County Travel Council could use a portion of its multi-million dollar budget to publicize the reservation system so few people will be turned away.
As a small business owner, it is my responsibility to keep my business afloat; not the government’s.