National Park

National Park Gateway Town rethinks its congestion promotion strategy: NPR

The gate to Arches National Park will be closed on weekday mornings last month, as it’s often the morning after parking lots and trails fill up quickly.

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The gate to Arches National Park will be closed on weekday mornings last month, as it’s often the morning after parking lots and trails fill up quickly.

Claire Harbor / NPR

Most of the time, around 8 a.m., the gates to Arches National Park in Utah close. This is because all the parking lots are full and the trails are full.

After that, many tourists flood the surrounding federal public lands. These red rock canyons and river-lined canyons first mapped Moab, one of the western capitals of adventure and tourism.

On a hot afternoon these days, a pool along the Federal Land Management Trail east of town was generally a quiet retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the arches and nearby Canyonlands National Park.

After all, it is the summer of 2021 and people are flocking to a record number of the vast western wilderness in an attempt to forget about the 2020 blockade.

“Everyone is stuck in the house. They all want to come out and explode, ”says Sid Trivedy, Indiana.

Tourists frequently visit the pools along the Federal Land Management Trail east of Moab.

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Tourists frequently visit the pools along the Federal Land Management Trail east of Moab.

Claire Harbor / NPR

Trivedy and her family heard of a swimming hole from a guide who rented an ATV. He also investigated the daily park closures and scheduled a day to do other things around Moab.

“Yes, there are people. I came here six years ago and it wasn’t too crowded, ”he says. “In six years, I’ve become a lot of people now, but it’s fun.”

However, locals tend to listen to the hype about these favorite secret hiding places. The city is full of noisy all-terrain vehicles, they complain. The second owner and Airbnbs are already pricing people in the tight housing market. There are not enough workers in the company. And there are camps everywhere, even if they are posted as forbidden.

In the 1950s, Moab was a sleepy uranium mining town. But the tourism-driven economy brought traffic there.

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In the 1950s, Moab was a sleepy uranium mining town. But the tourism-driven economy brought traffic there.

Claire Harbor / NPR

The tourism industry has been booming nationwide since the end of the pandemic. But some Moabs recently wondered aloud if you can do too many good things.

“We have a lot of issues with human waste and the ring of fire, and there are pictures of campers dumping sewage,” said Mary McGann, chair of the Grand County Commission.

Moab has already been listed as a national model on how to reinvent the economy based on tourism and recreation. When McGann moved here as a girl in the 1950s, it was a sleepy uranium mining town. It all went bankrupt in the late 1980s. Shortly after, locals who lost their jobs in the mine opened a mountain bike store. Things started right away.

Seen from Arches National Park, Moab was once listed as a national model on how to reinvent the economy based on tourism and recreation.

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Seen from Arches National Park, Moab was once listed as a national model on how to reinvent the economy based on tourism and recreation.

Claire Harbor / NPR

“We switched to tourism and we were delighted. We thought tourism wouldn’t have the same environmental impact as mining, ”McGann explains. “Looking back, I think tourism is now having a more negative impact on our surroundings.”

NOT. Current visitor crash Question to a local leader: are we promoting ourselves too much?

“Especially coming out of the pandemic and not having an income for months for many people is a good problem,” said Moab Mayor Emily Kneehaus. “It’s a good problem, but it’s still a problem.”

“Especially coming out of the pandemic and not having an income for months for many people is a good problem,” said Moab Mayor Emily Kneehaus.

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“Especially coming out of the pandemic and not having an income for months for many people is a good problem,” said Moab Mayor Emily Kneehaus.

Claire Harbor / NPR

Some have blamed Utah’s law forcing these cities to spend most of their hotel taxes on marketing and attracting more tourists to the city. This year, local leaders persuaded state lawmakers to increase the flexibility to spend some of that money to pay for impacts on tourists. (Ironically, the law dates back to the days of the mining bankruptcy, which allowed Moab to lobby the state and spend more money promoting tourism.)

Leaders here are also lobbying the National Park Service to set up a reservation system in Arches. But one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard is that there are few environmental regulations in place on federal Crown lands.

Only three federal rangers patrol this long-standing problem, which is larger than Delaware. Not unique to this corner of the west.

The Colorado River runs along Federal Land Management Office lands just west of Moab and is seeing an increase in the number of visitors leaving their homes.

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The Colorado River runs along Federal Land Management Office lands just west of Moab and is seeing an increase in the number of visitors leaving their homes.

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“Basically a flat place on a busy weekend, even [it’s] It’s right next to the no-camp sign, ”says Kelly Kelly, part-time Moab resident and assistant professor at the University of Utah.

Kelly started talking in June after an illegal campfire ignited. Wildfire that later destroyed his home The other three between Moab and the Lasal Mountains. At that time, fires were prohibited. However, Kelly says that many new visitors bring little knowledge about the drought nature and the region.

“People who grew up in the West know that doing it is a very bad idea and that it is forbidden,” she said. “On the other hand, you might be from a part of a country that is much less flammable and you might not really understand it.”

Kelly says it’s time for these cities to put the brakes on marketing and spend more on educating customers and the infrastructure to support residents.

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