SPRINGDALE — A trailblazing agreement between the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah and Springdale has materialized. The tribe has donated the rights for people to access their land to enjoy the new George A. Barker River Park trail.
The land is owned exclusively by the tribe, so an easement would have been customarily required and would have taken more time. For many years residents were hiking on the trail with no formal agreement.
“Typically, when we’re building trails, we get an easement, which says, ‘Yes, this is your property, but you’re giving us formal permission to build a trail or to access your property,’ ” Ryan Gubler, Springdale director of parks and recreation said. “But we didn’t use that this time because the Paiute tribe was just very gracious.”
The trail is accessible by the steep dirt road near the old water tower. The trail meanders along the top of a mesa for about a mile. Visitors are treated to rare views of the area.
“The Paiute tribe has been letting people go up on their land,” Gubler said. “They’ve been very open to hikers, bikers, whoever wants to go up and enjoy spectacular views of Zion Canyon. So, when you get up to the top, you’re overlooking Springdale, and you are looking up the canyon and Zion National Park. It’s really, really pretty.”
Harmony between the town and tribe has not always been effortless, but things are moving positively.
“From what I understand, at one point, the town and the Paiute tribe were at odds with some different issues. And so, this was a big step in working together,” Gubler said. “The tribe has been very good to work with. I think the relationship has only been strengthened between the town of Springdale and the Paiute Tribe with this project.”
Springdale councilwoman Suzanne Elger also feels the trail has brought the groups together.
“The project has afforded a level of trust between both the town and the Paiutes, that we have similar interests at heart, with respect to preserving open space and having trails and recreating responsibly and taking care of being good stewards of the land,” Elger said.
In recent years, the Paiute tribe has been working with Springdale and looking at different opportunities for collaboration.
“We are trying to integrate into what the town is doing in sharing our culture, our history, our heritage. Not only with our local community but also with visitors that come to the park,” Shane Parashonts, tribal administrator, said.
There may be future collaborations and projects the tribe can do with Springdale to benefit the tribe and the town. Plus, enlighten all the visitors that come into this beautiful part of the country. The tribe owns some property next to some of the other trails near the town and Zion National Park.
The tribe named the trail “Nung’wu Poa”, which translates to “The Paiute trail.”
“The name of the trail is significant because it will help create awareness of the footsteps walking on our land — our Paiute land. Our historical ties and connection to not only the land but to Zion National Park and to remember our historical, cultural and spiritual connections to the land,” Parashonts said.
Around 30 volunteers from the town assisted with building the trail. Elger said that the Trails Alliance of Southern Utah also had six volunteers on hand to help lay out the path.
“The hardest part is to access the trail because there’s a dirt road that goes up to a water tank that the town no longer uses, but that road is very steep. But then once you get to the trail, it’s not,” Elger said. “The trail kind of winds around on the top of a plateau. You get a view down into the center of town. It’s one of the few trails that’s not in the park that allows you access that’s up high to let you see the valley, the canyon and so it’s a unique view.”
The George A. Barker River Park Trail is located next to the park, by the same name, located at 1751 Zion Park Boulevard. The river park has picnic facilities, restrooms, barbecues, benches, parking and trails. The river park is open during all regular park hours and may not be rented or reserved, according to Springdale’s website.
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