At the Oct. 18 Grand County Commission meeting, Economic Development Department Director August Granath shared updates on the department’s recent activities and achievements. The department oversees tourism advertising; in addition to campaigns aimed at visitors who drive and visitors who fly to Moab, the department has focused on educational campaigns and promoting responsible recreation. 

Granath described campaigns explaining the timed entry program at Arches National Park: They created web pages, distributed info cards and adventure guides to local businesses, placed ads in local print media, and placed an informational poster in Canyonlands Regional Airport. They also spent $200,000 on a digital campaign, with information on TripAdvisor, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. 

Granath proudly shared a new educational video posted on the department’s YouTube channel and on the website. Filmmaker Mark Finley, who has worked with the Moab Area Travel Council and the Economic Development Department on many past projects, created the video promoting responsible recreation, called “Moab’s Living Soil Crust,” in which local scientists Sasha Reed and Kristina Young expound on the importance of staying on trails to protect biological soil crusts in the Moab desert. 

“Biocrusts matter for so many reasons in these deserts: they stabilize soils, they add fertility, they interact with plants and wildlife in ways that we’re only just starting to realize,” Reed says in the video, as close-up footage explores the intricacies of the moss, lichen and cyanobacteria that make up the biocrust. 

“He’s got a new macro-lens that gets really high quality up-close content,” Granath told the commission. “The quality, to me, feels like a Discovery Channel piece.” 

Videos like these are part of the department’s strategy to establish a culture of responsible recreation in the Moab area. The department is promoting messages not just about protecting natural resources, but also about courtesy in residential areas and in town. 

The department also partnered with the Southeast Utah Health Department, the Grand County Active Transportation and Trails Division, and the Solid Waste Special Service District to disperse information on proper disposal of portable human waste bags: a page on the Discover Moab website lists the locations of new drop-off points. 

In addition to targeted advertising campaigns, the department produces and distributes travel guides and fields phone calls and emails from visitors.

The department also created several new grant programs this year, and has dispersed or will soon disperse around $1 million to the community. One grant was aimed at tourism businesses, (called the Marketing Our Awesome Businesses, or MOAB! grant) and distributed about $30,000 to seven awardees. A selection committee has identified dozens of recipients of the department’s Sustainable and Resilient Business (or STAR) grants; the first round of these awardees, which will receive a total of $709,135, was unanimously approved by the commission at the Oct. 18 meeting. Another round will be reviewed at the commission’s next meeting. Another grant program offered relief for businesses affected by the severe flooding in August; the department dispersed $213,000 through that program. 

Members of the department also pursued networking and professional development opportunities, gaining new degrees and certifications and attending conferences and trade shows. The department’s Canyonlands Business Summit drew 150 attendees from both Grand and San Juan counties. 

Keep up with the department’s activities on and