Letter: Billboards vs scenic byways: Legislation would undermine tourism in Utah

Because I operate a hospitality business at the gateway to Capitol Reef National Park (and I live there), I worry about the negative impact that SB28 (“Scenic Byway Program Amendments”) will have on our local tourism economy. It would undermine the protection of Utah’s only “All American Road”— Highway 12 between our town and Bryce. Capitol Reef, Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument, all along Highway 12′s spectacular viewshed to Bryce Canyon, draws tourists from all over the world! Wayne County’s economy is completely dependent upon this tourism.

SB28 proposes to remove the decision-making power away from local stakeholders and municipalities. Instead, it grants the billboard industry’s wildest dream — to move that decision-making authority to where they have greatest influence — the state Legislature. Big lobby money buys big influence!

Scenic byways bring tourism to nearly all of Utah’s rural counties. “Segmentation” already puts these scenic byways at risk. And new flashing digital billboards mean a lot more money for outdoor advertising, while Utah’s economy loses its main driver of income — tourism.

SB28, if successful, creates a radical shift in power; from local governments to the state. Most rural counties and towns in Utah are entirely dependent upon the tourism that their scenic vistas and dark skies inspire. By denying local municipalities’ their right to decide zoning issues that directly affect both their quality of life and economic health, the Legislature hurts all Utah towns and cities. The dramatic power grab of the Legislature away from local towns and cities is not in anyone’s best interest except the outdoor advertising industry’s bank accounts.

At stake is the integrity of our scenic byways, with their spectacular views and dark skies, and the economic engine they represent; not only for the local economies but also for the entire state. These roads set Utah apart as a national treasure! Ask your senator to vote “No” on SB28 (the billboard bill) amendments.

Ty Markham, Torrey

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