ST. GEORGE — The first of three public meetings hosted by the Bureau of Land Management concerning proposals to increase the number of permits for hikers in The Wave was held Tuesday evening in St. George.
The public meeting was a part of an overall 30-day public comment period that runs through Oct. 12 focused on proposed management changes to the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness where The Wave is located.
Access to the popular rock formation on the Utah-Arizona border had been limited to hiking permits, making it one of the more exclusive hiking destinations in the Southwest.
Currently, the BLM only allows 20 people a day to hike The Wave. Two proposals on the table have bumped that number up to either 48 or 96 in order to accommodate increased demands for permits.
Like many outdoor destinations, the popularity of The Wave has exploded in recent years due to exposure over the internet.
In 2018 alone, over 200,000 individuals applied for the 7,300 permits available to hike The Wave, said Rachel Carnahan, public affairs officer for the BLM’s Arizona Strip Field Office.
“There have been numberless members of the public who have approached the BLM and asked us to take a fresh look at potentially increasing the number of permits we issue for people to visit The Wave,” Carnahan said during Tuesday’s public meeting held at the Red Lion Hotel in St. George.
While only a handful of people were at the public meeting, Carnahan said the BLM received 1,600 comments during a scoping period held earlier this year. Those comments helped create a preliminary environmental assessment of the proposals that the BLM is currently asking the public to review and comment on.
The BLM hopes public input will help clarify any issues they may have missed or that they underestimated or overestimated in the preliminary proposal.
“We want to be as responsive to the public as possible,” Carnahan said.
In addition to the proposed permit increase, proposals also include improved trailhead infrastructure and safety measures to help hikers know the location of the trail.
Longtime Southern Utah resident Anne Smith, who also teaches outdoor recreation at Southern Utah University, attended Tuesday’s meeting and said she had frequented The Wave and surrounding area long before it became a popular destination.
“Frankly, I’ve gotten a little grumpy I have to share now, but I recognize also and teach my students that multiple use means you have to make accommodations for many different land uses,” she said.
As for what she thought of the proposed changes, Smith said she had to educate herself further on the matter before submitting a comment.
Chris Goralski, who also attended the meeting, said she worried the proposed increase in hikers to The Wave would negatively impact it.
“I’m mostly worried about the resource itself,” she said. “We’ve been out there, and the resource is fragile.”
Goralski visited The Wave once before, she said, yet hasn’t been able to land another permit to hike it. She said she’d rather not get a permit again if it meant destroying The Wave with more people.
In addition to Tuesday’s meeting, two public meetings are scheduled to take place this week in Kanab and Page, Arizona.
- Sept. 25, 5-8 p.m. – Page Police Department community room, 808 Coppermine Road, Page, Arizona.
- Sept. 26, 5-8 p.m. – Kanab Middle School, 690 S. Cowboy Way, Kanab.
Those interested in submitting a written comment can do so through the BLM’s ePlanning website. Comments can also be mailed to Brandon Boshell at the BLM Arizona Strip District office at 345 E. Riverside Drive, St. George, Utah 84790. The comment period will remain open until Oct. 12.
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