Requiring a reservation to enter Arches National Park is a horrible idea. I can think of so many reasons why that idea is impractical and unnecessary, when there are so many other solutions.
I came to Moab in 1955, never suspecting such amazing scenery. I was on my way to California at the time. I went to Arches National Monument on the dirt road by Willow Springs in my Buick car. It was an awesome trip. That’s one of the reasons I am still here. I was so impressed that I started a tour company to help people see Arches and surrounding natural wonders. It’s given me such pleasure to see the excitement and joy of the people on my tours. To this day, they return with their families and tell me that it was a highlight in their lives. To think that people might need an advance reservation to enter the park brings tears to my eyes. Here are the obvious ways to allow more, not fewer people to experience Arches:
First and easiest is to overhaul the current check-in arrangement. Think of a freeway, where some people breeze right through with passes, others with exact change, a few who require more time. Build more check-in booths to handle different situations efficiently. Perhaps volunteers could hand out material and answer questions. I have noticed many cars see the long lines and drive on. The park just lost money, the people are disappointed and many never come back again.
Are the current parking areas too small to accommodate the cars and tour buses? Well, enlarge them. Start with the busiest ones. People will be happy to walk a little further to a viewpoint or trail, instead of driving around and around looking for a parking space.
Pave the Willow Springs Road, which comes out at Balanced Rock. People could enter and/or leave the park that way if they choose to. Outside the park boundary, at Willow Springs Road, there is plenty of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land to build a campground and a large parking lot for RVs and other trailers. Many people caravan in two or more vehicles and could ride together into Arches.
Salt Valley Road is very good, with fantastic views most of the way. It comes out close to Skyline Arch at the north end of the park. Another entrance and exit is on U.S. Highway 191 close to Crescent Junction, with another at Thompson Springs off Interstate 70. These should all be advertised.
Build more trails. There are so many more amazing sights that can be walked to, and unlimited photo opportunities, but they are hidden from you now with only occasional parking for one or two cars. Arches is a large park, with well over 76,000 acres. It has 2,000 counted arches and bridges, plus crags, canyons and unique rock formations. The park displays more than 150 million years of historical layers of the earth’s crust. We need more pull-offs and trails, and all should have interpretive signage so that visitors can understand and appreciate what they are looking at. Each point of interest, each geologic feature should also be described in detail in the park’s brochure as well. With more information and things to do and see, people would want to extend their visits, which would help all Moab businesses. I believe that there are many locals and out-of-towners who would be happy to help build trails.
It should not be the goal of the National Park Service to herd people through as fast as possible, to make as much money as possible or to minimize the job of the rangers. This, and all of our national parks, belong to us. Get involved. Don’t let the bureaucrats push us around.