A clear mountain stream running through the desert is a rare and priceless jewel. Moab has such a treasure, and now, through social media, the bigger world has discovered it. Quite sensibly, they wish to bask in its beauty, bringing their vehicles, their dogs, their stuff and their human needs along with them. The result is overcrowding and observable damages.
After decades of hand-wringing and wondering how to protect Mill Creek, it is time for Grand County and the BLM to collaborate on a plan as they did with the Sand Flats area, which went through similar growth agonies years ago.
In the long run, the primary entry and parking area for the Powerdam area and Mill Creek trailhead needs to be moved to the north side of Mill Creek, in the area known as Potato Salad Hill. The road into this area is wider and safer than Powerhouse Lane, the present primary entry point. The north-side entry does not involve high-volume vehicle travel through a residential neighborhood, as is the case on Powerhouse Lane, and the area available for parking development is vastly larger than it is on the inadequate south side.
Canyon monitor Sara Melnicoff correctly points out in recent letters that formally moving the primary entry from the south side to the north side is irresponsible until infrastructure improvements have been planned and implemented. Compared to the work that’s gone into the area already, the north-side infrastructure could be done quite easily and economically.
The infrastructure would involve grading a level parking area on top of Potato Salad Hill, closing the rough, one-lane road to the base of the hill for non-emergencies, converting that route to a short trail to the creek and building a short-span bridge across Mill Creek on the bedrock buttresses just below the Powerdam. Such a bridge would safely connect the two sides above flood level, provide access to existing restrooms and facilitate emergency response. The distance from this proposed primary parking area to Powerdam is 680 feet, compared to 685 feet from the present parking area.
It is irresponsible to delay planning for the future of the Powerdam area and envisioning a visitor experience for locals and guests that matches the grandeur of Mill Creek. In the long run, I see no sensible alternative to moving the primary entry point and parking from the south side to the north side.
Powerhouse Lane, Moab