Old Spanish Trail proposal discourages motorized travel; comment period open

Composite image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Washington County officials are weighing in on a draft strategy for managing the Old Spanish National Historic Trail that would discourage motorized travel along a route that runs through several Southern Utah counties. In addition to Washington County commissioners, the public is invited to comment on the strategy as well.

Map courtesy of National Park Service, St. George News
Map courtesy of National Park Service, St. George News | Click image to enlarge

Congress designated the trail in 2002 to recognize the significance of the notoriously arduous trail that traders used to transport goods between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Los Angeles, California, between 1829 to 1848.

The trail passes through New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah and Nevada, including parts of Washington, Iron, Garfield, Piute and Sevier counties.

Washington County commissioners are submitting a formal comment on the plan. Officials would like to see the overall strategy focus more on recreational use and educational signs with less emphasis on landscape preservation. Management of the trail should increase the public’s appreciation for the pioneering efforts of the people who created the trail, officials said, without curtailing modern uses of the surrounding areas.

Officials believe management of the trail should increase the public’s appreciation for the trail without curtailing modern uses of the surrounding areas.

Sites and segments marked on map have the potential to contain important cultural resources| Map courtesy of National Park Service, St. George News
Sites and segments marked on map have the potential to contain important cultural resources| Map courtesy of National Park Service, St. George News

“The county would urge the agencies involved in managing the Old Spanish Trail to manage primarily for recreation opportunities and also to manage for the least impact on multiple use,” a resolution passed at a Sept. 6 commission meeting states.

“One of the main reasons Congress designates trails is to facilitate recreation near by the cities and urban areas,” Deputy Washington County Attorney Eric Clarke told the commission.

The crux of the county’s comment is that the trail designation isn’t intended to restore the trail to its original condition, Clarke said.

“It’s meant to provide access and recreational opportunities,” Clarke said, “and we hope that their final strategy comes out that way. But it’s something we have to comment on because it does impact us.”

Clarke noted that the document open for comment is a strategy, not a formal plan.

“So it’s pretty squishy to begin with.”

Sites and segments marked on map have the potential to contain important cultural resources| Map courtesy of National Park Service, St. George News
Sites and segments marked on map have the potential to contain important cultural resources| Map courtesy of National Park Service, St. George News

The overall feel of the strategy is one of conservation rather than recreation, county documents state.

Under the proposed management strategy, motorized travel would be discouraged along most of the trail, and plans are to manage the trail at a landscape or viewshed level to create the experience a traveler might have had between 1829 and 1848.

Detailed maps of the project are available here.

Details

The Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service administer the trail together and are seeking public input on the new strategy document that will guide administration of the Old Spanish National Historic Trail for the next 15 to 20 years. Public comments will be accepted through Oct. 17.

Sites and segments marked on map have the potential to contain important cultural resources| Map courtesy of National Park Service, St. George News
Sites and segments marked on map have the potential to contain important cultural resources| Map courtesy of National Park Service, St. George News

Proposals in the Old Spanish National Historic Trail draft comprehensive administrative strategy include establishing the purpose of the trail and an inventory of important cultural areas, known as high potential sites and segments. The document also includes a clear strategy for how the National Park Service and BLM will comply with the National Trails System Act in future administrative and planning efforts.

The two federal agencies work with the Old Spanish Trail Association; American Indian tribes; state, county, and municipal government agencies; private landowners; nonprofit groups and many other partners.

For more information and to comment visit the National Park Service park planning website.
Comments may also be provided in writing, by telephone, fax or by email to:

Michael Elliott
National Trails Intermountain Region
National Park Service
PO Box 728
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504
Voice: 505-988-6015
Fax: 505-986-5214
Email: michael_elliott@nps.gov

Ed. note: Corrected comment closing date.

Email: japplegate@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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