- Associated Press - Saturday, December 26, 2015

ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) - Utah’s busiest park is getting a new plan to manage the thicker flow of visitors.

The National Park Service is planning to develop a new Visitor Use Management Plan, officials said this month.

“The VUMP will address visitor and commercial uses, visitor experience and capacity, and resource conservation,” Aly Baltrus, Zion’s chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services, said in an email to The Spectrum newspaper in St. George (https://bit.ly/1JAQqrR). “Through the planning process, the park will gather data and share that information with the public.”

Zion’s 20-year general management plan has been in place since 2001 and is still used as a guide on how to manage the park. Yet, there is no doubt attendance has risen in recent years.

Zion is the seventh-busiest park in the country. The busiest month in 2005 was July, with nearly 350,000 people entering the park. Contrast that with more than 480,000 visitors this past July. Park officials said it’s likely the park will have had more than 1 million additional visitors this year than 10 years ago once figures for December are tabulated.

Volunteer Marcel Rodriguez, who had worked as a seasonal ranger at Zion for 17 years, said people are complaining more about crowds.

“Thanksgiving week I had a visitor asking about less traveled trails,” Rodriguez said. “She had done Angels Landing and said it was horribly crowded and no fun at all. She said there’s no way it could be more crowded, there was no time when you couldn’t reach out and touch another hiker in front of you. To me that’s not a park experience.”

The park service will solicit the public’s input as well on proposed management plans.

Residents and business owners in neighboring towns such as Springdale said they are hopeful that everyone can handle the rise in visitors. Rick Praetzel, managing partner of the Zion Adventure Company, a guiding service and canyoneering outfitter, said he is willing to make sure his business can accommodate more people as well.

“It’s what we do every winter. We ask ourselves if we think we can serve more people and how can we change what we’re doing to make that possible while still keeping it a pleasant experience for the visitor,” Praetzel said.


Information from: The Spectrum, https://www.thespectrum.com

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