Zion National Park to hold public meetings on crowding

Officials at Zion National Park have scheduled a series of public meetings to discuss challenges facing the park as it continues to draw record numbers of visitors.

National Park Service figures show that nearly 1 million people had visited the park in southern Utah through the end of April. That’s about an 8 percent increase over the same time period last year and puts the park on track to set an attendance record for the third year in a row. The increased traffic, combined with a stagnant budget, has taken a toll on Zion’s infrastructure.

“It has definitely been a struggle. And there hasn’t been an increase in base funding to help compensate for the crowds,” Zion spokeswoman Aly Baltrus said. Officials say search and rescue calls doubled in 2015 as more people veered off established paths.

Officials are working on a new management plan and will gather feedback at a series of public meetings in communities near the park in late May.

“Your voice is extremely important in this process,” Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said in a written statement. “We want to hear about your experiences in Zion National Park, your perspectives on visitor use levels and any recommendations you may have to enhance resource protection and visitor experience.”

Zion officials will start with a meeting in Springdale on May 23, 2016, followed by Cedar City on May 24, St. George on May 25 and Kanab on May 26.

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