Zion Forever Project releases plans for protecting, improving Southern Utah parks

Zion National Park south entrance sign and monument, Zion National Park, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Zion National Park Forever Project’s centennial edition of the 2019 Field Guide to Forever Projects was released July 25, outlining the goals the program has for “protecting forever, improving today and informing tomorrow.”

Accessibility upgrades to the Pa’rus Trail in Zion is one of the many projects in the Zion Forever Project Field Guide Zion National Park, Utah, July 1, 2016 | File photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

The Zion National Park Forever Project is the official nonprofit partner for Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks and Pipe Spring national monuments.

The 2019 guide describes 36 projects ranging from preservation, scientific studies and education and outreach.

The projects for the field guide were chosen by park partners, Zion National Park superintendents and the division leadership through an application process to determine the park’s most critical needs in a collaborative effort to engage public and private support for the projects.

“The Forever Project provides essential support to our three parks and beyond, helping to conserve and care for these treasured landscapes enjoyed by millions of visitors that come from around the world every year,” Zion National Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said in a press release. “This level of collaboration is an innovative model for the future of our national parks.”

The park’s everyday maintenance and operations are funded by federal tax dollars and visitor entrance fees. However, the Forever Project’s Mission at Work strategies are in place to improve and implement resources and projects to sustain Zion for the next 100 years.

“The Zion Forever Project is poised to provide the park greater financial support, technical expertise and capacity than at any time in our 90-year history as the park’s official nonprofit partner,” Zion National Park Forever Project Executive Director Lyman Hafen said in a press release.

The project has three Zion National Park Forever Project Missions at Work strategies: protecting forever, improving today and informing tomorrow. The objectives in the field guide are broken up by these categories.

Protecting forever

Six of the 14 protecting forever projects include the conservation of land and history.

Bighorn sheep in Zion National Park, monitoring the herd is part of the Zion Forever Project’s 2019 projects, date not specified | Photo courtesy of the National Park Service, St. George News

They plan to conserve greater Zion landscape by preserving the undeveloped land outside the park, maintaining the historic first superintendent’s house in the Pine Creek Historic District, protecting the “Temples and Towers of the Virgin” mural at St. George Regional Airport, collecting oral histories from the Pipe Springs community, recording oral stories and publishing constellation maps and planispheres from Paiute tribal elders, and designing a new plan for preserving today’s digital records for the future.

Four items are related to the protection and research of Zion wildlife, which includes studying a potentially new wildflower species, developing a monitoring-and-tracking system for bighorn sheep, engaging the help of rock climbers in monitoring bat populations and researching the impact of human traffic on Virgin River ecosystems.

The plans also include updating park visitor maps, using aerial 3D imaging to create detailed maps for search and rescue and wildlife monitoring purposes, and harnessing solar energy at Cedar Breaks and at Watchman employee housing.

Improving today

Twelve projects address improving today. One major project is to replace the aging shuttle fleet at Zion. The vehicles are seven years past their life expectancy and beginning to wear. The Forever Project’s contribution to the project aims to collect $150,000, which is half of what they need to replace the shuttles. The hope is that a U.S. Department of Transportation grant will match that contribution.

Another project is to reopen the Middle Emerald Pools Trail which has been closed since 2010 due to landslide damages. The $890,000 project is the only one that is already fully funded and is projected to start early 2019.

They are also planning to build a 5,000-square-foot visitor contact station at the east entrance to the park. The proposed location is at the corner of SR-9 and North Fork Road and will offer services such as issuing backcountry permits, providing educational programs, hosting exhibits and events, opening a park store and operating as a future shuttle hub.

Other improving today projects include planning for campsites and facilities on public lands near the park, building a place for park volunteers to stay, making a bike path between Springdale and the Pa’rus trail, constructing a visitor information center at Cedar Breaks, maintaining Scout Lookout, making the Pa’rus trail more accessible, crafting furniture for Winsor Castle and establishing a wagon ride experience on the Honeymoon Trail in Pipe Springs, and developing stargazing at Cedar Breaks.

Informing Tomorrow

Ten of the items are dedicated for informing tomorrow, which are mostly educational. Educational programs for children include funding My First Zion Experience, Paiute Tribal Youth Camp, the Junior Ranger program, school field trips, piloting an intern program for Concrete to Canyons alumni, educating kids in Washington, Iron and Kane counties classrooms, transporting Title I school students on field trips to Zion, Pipe Springs and Cedar Breaks, bringing high school students to the park to create artwork, providing internships for high school and college students and expanding distance learning by broadcasting live from the park.

Zion shuttle fleet parked near the maintenance facility, Zion National Park, Utah, March 2, 2018 | File photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

Most 2019 objectives still need funding. Funds needed for a project vary from $10,000 to $890,000. The total amount needed to complete all 2019 field guide projects is $3,268,304. Donations and grants thus far have amounted to $1,040,000.

Contributions can be made to the project in a variety of ways including anonymous donations, annual donations and joining an affiliate program. Donations and information about contribution options can be found by clicking here.

The exact dates for when many of the larger projects will be started and complete are yet to be determined. Both the east visitor contact station and the shuttle replacement projects are still in the early planning stages, Hafen told St. George News.

“They are certainly two extremely important projects for the future of Zion and we are excited to be working on the ground floor of both,” Hafen said.

And while the budgets and initial plans have already been discussed, incidents such as the recent flooding at Zion that caused severe damage to, and prompted the closure of, several trails in the park, could mean that the Zion Forever Project and Zion National Park have to adjust their plans.

The canyon is a work in progress, and as we say around here, ‘Geology happens,’ It’s happening every day. So we’re ready to adjust our efforts to the park’s needs as requested by park management,” Hafen said.

What adjustments, if any, have not been decided since they have not had a chance to discuss it with park officials yet.

Resources

Email: mshoup@stgnews.com

Twitter:  @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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