All six members of Utah’s congressional delegation announced Monday that they oppose a possible reservation system at Zion National Park, saying it would reduce visitation at Utah’s most popular scenic getaway and harm southern Utah’s economy.
“We write to reiterate our strong opposition to any reservation system,” the delegation wrote to U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, “and instead request that [the National Park Service] give ample consideration to locally driven alternative solutions that preserve visitor access and enjoyment.”
The bipartisan letter was sent in response to a park service study now underway examining ways to handle the exploding visitation at Zion, which had 4.3 million visitors in 2018 — a 62% jump from 2010.
As the country’s fourth most visited national park, Zion is “a pillar of the local tourism economy — helping support jobs and generate revenue,” the letter states. If the park service study recommended a reservation system and it ultimately was implemented, "it would likely result in reduced visitation and negative economic impacts.”
“We strongly urge the department to find solutions that will preserve access to [the park] while enhancing the visitor experience,” says the letter, signed by Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee as well as GOP Reps. Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart and John Curtis along with Democrat Ben McAdams.
The delegation noted in the letter that state and local leaders have proposed several solutions to park crowding, including improved public outreach and use of the state’s marketing resources, state and local investment in trails or road infrastructure alternatives outside of Zion Canyon and changes to the park’s shuttle system to manage peak visitation.
“We are encouraged by the many ideas NPS can explore with state and local stakeholders to improve the visitor experience without severely restricting visitors from accessing [the park]," the letter concludes. ”We urge the department to carefully evaluate these proposals rather than pursuing burdensome visitor limitations and reservation systems."
Zion visitation has been increasing for decades, according to the National Park Service, which has resulted in long lines to enter the park and board shuttles. Parking lots routinely are full by 9:30 a.m., which creates congestion in the nearby own of Springdale.
“This increase in visitation stresses park infrastructure, can degrade natural and cultural resources, and adversely affects the visitors’ park experience," the agency said on its website. Through the study process, “park managers will devise measures to be taken that provide an enjoyable and safe visitor experience while protecting the park’s fundamental resources and values.”