Judy Powers

Honestly, I don’t understand the problem people have with a proposed reservation system for entry to Arches National Park.

I hadn’t given it much thought until I spoke with Arches superintendent Kate Cannon. In the brief time we spoke, she was able to explain it in a way that made a lot of sense to me. It got me wondering. Why were people against it? Had they given it any thought or had they simply reacted?

When I was at the National Park Service presentation regarding overcrowding in Arches, I asked one man I spoke with what he thought of the reservation system idea. He said “I just don’t like it. I want to go in any time I want to.”

That’s all well in theory, especially if you live here even part-time. If it’s busy, you have the option to come back another time or the experience to plan your visit for earlier or later in the day. Frankly, many of us who live here rarely go to the park anymore because it’s too crowded.

The truth is that people are often waiting in line to get into Arches for 45 minutes to an hour. (Think of the exhaust fumes from the cars in line!) There have been times that traffic trying to get into Arches backed up onto U.S. 191, and the park has even had to close at times of high traffic.

I went to Denali National Park this past summer, which has a reservation system. Our trip was planned around the reservations we had for the park. It was nice to know we would get in smoothly and have a reserved space on the shuttle bus. It would have been so disappointing to get there and wait at the entrance or even be denied entrance.

So let’s talk about the people who have planned for their own trip, who have come from all over the world to see this spectacular, unusual collection of natural arches. As a tourist who has come to see Arches National Park, I would like to know I am going to be able to get into the park. Therefore I would like to know when I can get into the park.

The reservation system, as I understand it, would be for the peak seasons and the peak times of the day. The earlier people make their reservations, the more time choices they have. Obviously, the more popular weekends like Memorial Day, Labor Day and any other three-day weekends will fill up faster. But they do now, and then the parks may be closed unexpectedly. However, with the reservation system, if the 10 a.m. slot is full then you can try for 9 a.m., or 8 a.m., or 3 p.m. At those times, you could drive right in – wouldn’t that be nice?

Besides making visiting the park a better experience for visitors, the reservation system seems like it would be a big advantage for business owners since people could plan their day. Most likely they would do another activity before or after they go into the park because they can relax about getting in. Maybe they would go shopping and have lunch downtown before their reservation, using their time spending money in town rather than waiting in line.

It sure seems like a simple, easy and inexpensive way to streamline the system. We don’t need or want more and more of our national parks land to be used up with parking lots.

Clearly, something needs to be done about the overcrowding situation. Personally, I really like the idea of the shuttle system. People waiting for a shuttle have to slow down and really experience this gorgeous place. But that is a much more expensive project than a reservation system.

So, to those people that are against it and have insisted that the reservation system be scrapped: what’s your idea?

Judy Powers moved from New York City in 1991 to live with her father in Castle Valley “for a few months.” More than 27 years later, she runs her business, Powers with Animals (powerswithanimals.com) and gets to follow her passion: spending time with animals and sometimes training their humans.