The first day after Zion National Park weekday shuttle service ended for the season—Monday, Oct. 26—park officials were faced with a problem. All of the legal parking spaces were full by 10 a.m., and traffic had to be restricted through the park. Zion National Park officials are saying they didn’t anticipate the large amount of traffic that would occur without the shuttles running through the week, especially this late in the season.
According to a press release by Aly Baltrus, Zion Park spokesperson, “Visitors were allowed in, only as others departed. A number of people who were planning on visiting Zion Canyon had negative experiences with the traffic or had to be turned away altogether. Neither of these are what we want to see.”
“Zion’s visitation has increased by almost a million people over the past two years bringing the number to over 3 million visitors this year alone.”
In response to the traffic problem and the large amount of visitors wanting to go through the canyon, weekday shuttle service will resume Wednesday, Oct. 28. Zion National Park made arrangements with the shuttle company, Parks Transportation Incorporated, to extend the daily service. The shuttle service will operate between the hours of 7 a.m and 7:30 p.m. The daily service will continue through Sunday, Nov. 8. After that, the shuttle will only run on weekends through November 22 and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday over the Thanksgiving weekend.
The only access to the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive will continue as it does during shuttle season. People visiting the park can board the shuttle in the usual locations inside the park and on the Springdale Town shuttle route. A single shuttle bus will run through the town of Springdale starting at the Majestic Lodge at 9 a.m. The last town shuttle will leave the Zion Park’s pedestrian entrance about 6:45 p.m.
“Zion’s visitation has increased by almost a million people over the past two years bringing the number to over 3 million visitors this year alone,” Baltrus stated. “The park has tried to adapt to the increase by starting the shuttle service three weeks early in 2015, adding shuttles to the daily schedule, and providing weekend service in November and for the Thanksgiving holiday.”
“For years we have heard the expression Zion is being loved to death.Together with our partners and nearby communities, we must address these problems.”
Besides shuttle transportation issues inside the park, both Zion National Park and the town of Springdale are facing additional problems with so many visitors. Visitors have problems finding places to park in the park and Springdale even when the shuttles are running. Problems also include traffic congestion, overtaxed parking and increased pedestrian traffic which raises additional safety concerns.
Other concerns include park infrastructure, such as roads, trails and facilities that see additional wear and tear which includes more maintenance and repair. Resources in the park are also being damaged, including human waste that has increased in the park dramatically. The number of visitors is also an issue at Zion National Park backcountry locations.
Zion National Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said, “For years we have heard the expression Zion is being loved to death. Together with our partners and nearby communities, we must address these problems.”
Zion will initiate a Visitor Use Management Plan starting in 2016. The park’s capacity will be defined in key areas. The plan is to test some adaptive management strategies in the next two to three years to determine how to balance a safe and enjoyable experience for visitors while protecting park resources, easing visitor crowding and managing traffic and parking congestion.