The National Park Service released the economic study on the impact of the proposed Arches National Park advanced reservations requirement. As we suspected, the impact on the Moab local economy would be devastating, with Moab losing $11 to $22 million in the first year alone. In subsequent years, the effect is compounded as Arches will see no additional primary season growth. Ever.
It is very disappointing that the National Park Service has rebuffed all communication with Moab and Grand County regarding the establishment of a shuttle system partnership for Arches National Park. The local management at Arches National Park has actively dismissed shuttle systems (beginning with a 2012 economic analysis), so therefore I am writing this letter to the National Park Service acting inter-mountain regional director Kate Hammond and colleagues in Washington, D.C., so we might now begin a fruitful dialogue to establish this partnership.
The Arches National Park advanced reservations requirement will have a significant negative impact on the Moab local economy as clearly demonstrated in this National Park Service (NPS) economic study. The NPS must now decide whether to continue down this unproductive path and produce the required Environmental Impact Statement, or choose instead to work in partnership with the Moab community to come up with real solutions for Arches National Park.
Arches generates approximately 72 percent of the Moab tourism economy. Therefore, it is incumbent upon our community to do all we can to create the best possible Arches visitor experience, especially given the current situation where the NPS has abrogated this responsibility in favor of simply limiting visitation.
Why should Arches be the only national park to require advanced reservations?
The NPS attitude towards Moab was summed up in the economic study with the statement “we are not directly concerned about local residents.” Under NEPA, the local economy is considered part of the environment, so under federal law the NPS is required to be concerned about local residents. The well-being of our community is our primary concern, so we have taken it upon ourselves to develop the best solution for Arches National Park.
Grand County’s general plan since 2012 supports a partnership with the NPS to develop a shuttle for Arches. In 2018, Grand County formed a transit committee to develop a proposal for an Arches shuttle. I am chair of the committee. I met with Arches National Park Superintendent Kate Cannon and was told “I am not interested in a shuttle,” so we are more than a little stifled at this point in our efforts to reach out to the NPS on the local level.
Our goal is to present a comprehensive shuttle partnership solution to the NPS. The primary objective of our proposal is the create a national park that prioritizes bicycling and walking over private cars. The current Arches transportation network was designed in the 1950s to prioritize private cars, and it’s time to envision a park for the 21st Century.
Our shuttle proposal will design visitor parking lots outside the boundaries of Arches, will solve the “instant congestion” challenges faced with the large capacity shuttles at Zion National Park and will fund shuttle stops with shade structures within Arches.
It is interesting that the NPS economic study notes that “A review of literature relevant to congestion at national parks suggests visitors are typically supportive of alternative transportation systems, particularly shuttle buses.”
It’s time to implement a shuttle at Arches National Park.