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Plan To Create Reservation System For Utah National Park Gets Tabled

photo of tourists at delicate arch. / claffra
Visitation at Arches National Park in Utah grew by 65 percent between 2010 and 2017.

National Park Service officials are reconsidering a plan would require would-be visitors to make reservations to enter Arches National Park after receiving pushback from local businesses.

“We are taking a healthy step back to consider all of our options to mitigate traffic congestion at Arches National Park,” wrote National Park Service spokesperson Marco De Leon in an email.

The plan, proposed in 2017, aimed to ease traffic and congestion at the park, located in southeastern Utah. The number of visitors at Arches grew by 65 percent between 2010 and 2017. Arches had about 1.5 million visitors in 2017, making it the 16th most visited national park that year.

But a 2018 report commissioned by the National Park Service found the reservation plan would cool visitation and could cost the tourism industry in the Moab area between $11 million and $22 million in its first year. These potential drops in profits and visitation concerned some in the tourism industry.

“The proposal to require advance reservations is more concerned with protecting the land from the very people it is mandated to protect the land for,” wrote Michael Liss, a Moab-based businessman, in an op-ed for the Salt Lake Tribune last summer.

But Erica Pollard, associate director for the southwest region of the non-profit National Park Conservation Association, supports the plan.

“That is the best solution in terms of really managing the number of vehicles that are in the park, being able to find parking spaces, and not having to wait hours outside of the park to get in,” she said.

Pollard argues that the National Park Service could advertise the reservation system in advance to help ease any loss in potential visitation.

Other national parks in the Mountain West, including Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, have seen increased visitation in recent years and have also mulled ways to ease traffic.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Nate Hegyi is the Utah reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, based at KUER. He covers federal land management agencies, indigenous issues, and the environment. Before arriving in Salt Lake City, Nate worked at Yellowstone Public Radio, Montana Public Radio, and was an intern with NPR's Morning Edition. He received a master's in journalism from the University of Montana.
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