ZION NATIONAL PARK – After vehicle traffic backed up and visitors were turned away Monday, Zion National Park has extended its daily shuttle service for another week.
The shuttle shut down for the year on Sunday; however, by Monday at 10 a.m., all 400 legal parking spaces in the park were full and visitors were being turned away, Zion National Park spokesperson Aly Baltrus said in a press statement.
“A number of people who were planning on visiting Zion Canyon had negative experiences with the traffic or had to be turned away altogether,” Baltrus said. “Neither of these are what we want to see.”
Park management met to look at options and, as a result, some limited roadside parking was allowed Tuesday and extra staff was called in to help organize parking. However, that was not enough to alleviate the situation, Baltrus said, and visitors were still being turned away.
To address the problem this season, the shuttle service will resume for another week, and daily service will continue through Nov. 8. The shuttle will also run on weekends through Nov. 22 and on Nov. 26-28 for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Riding the shuttle will be mandatory during these times. Visitors can board the shuttle in the usual locations within the park and on the Springdale Town route. A single shuttle bus will run through Springdale starting at the Majestic Lodge at 9 a.m. The last town shuttle will leave the park’s pedestrian entrance at approximately 6:45 p.m.
Loved to death?
Zion’s annual visitation has increased by almost a million people over the past two years, Baltrus said. The park has tried to adapt by starting the shuttle earlier in the year, adding more shuttles to the daily schedule and providing weekend service in November and over the Thanksgiving holiday.
However, the park is still facing a capacity issue at more than a few front country and backcountry locations. Visitors are having difficulty finding parking, both in the park and in Springdale, even when the shuttles are running. Overtaxed parking, traffic congestion and intermingled pedestrians have raised safety concerns along roadways.
Overcrowding is also occurring on some trails at peak times, which is diminishing the extraordinary Zion experience. Park infrastructure, including roads, trails and facilities, are seeing additional wear and tear, which is accelerating maintenance and replacement needs. Damage to park resources, such as social trailing and human waste, has increased dramatically.
“For years we have heard the expression ‘Zion is being loved to death,’” Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said. “Together with our partners and nearby communities, we must address these problems.”
To address the issues, Zion will begin a planning process in 2016 to help define the park’s capacity in key areas. Over the next two to three years, the park will test a number of management strategies to find the most effective way to promote safe, enjoyable experiences; protect park resources; ease visitor crowding; and manage traffic and parking congestion, Baltrus said.
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