Zion’s summer visitation record may be due to more accurate counting, park officials say

Southern Utah

ZION NATIONAL PARK (ABC4 News) – 2019 has been a busy year for trail closures and tourists at Zion National Park, but the apparent rise in summer visitation to more than a half a million visitors each month may be due to more accurate counting, according to park officials.

Park spokesperson Aly Baltrus said staff started using a new multiplier this January to more accurately record the number of visitors in each vehicle.

With roughly four million annual visitors in recent years, employees say they remain concerned with those not following “Leave No Trace” practices.

“We’re seeing micro trash, graffiti, rock stacking, and human waste in certain areas,” said Zion National Park ranger Eugenne Moisa.

In July, Moisa told ABC4 News workers received several reports of visitors harassing and touching wildlife, wanting to remind the public of park etiquette.

“A good practice is to hold up your thumb, and if the animal is small enough to hide behind your thumb, then you’re probably a good distance away,” said Zion National Park wildlife technician Jason Pietrzak.

With a 66 percent rise in visitation in the last 8 years, park officials said they’re seeing a “dramatic rise in the strain” on popular hikes such as The Narrows and Angels Landing. This year, park staff began managing the queue that forms for Angels Landing by moving the line to the West Rim trailhead at the Grotto, where visitors could access water and bathrooms.

Kacey Jones, assistant director of philanthropy for the park’s official nonprofit The Zion Natl Park Forever Project, said staff are working to develop a new trail network on the east side as well as a new visitor center to ease pressure on the main canyon.

“With the East Zion initiative, we’re really breaking new ground, through a large collective of partners including private landowners, the BLM, the Utah Department of Education, and Kane County,” Jones said. “We have within the park 15 established trails that are well-known and well-loved, but we’re looking during the first phase to build 11.29 miles of new trail over several years, with several partners who’ve stepped in to fund it, including the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation.”

“Our mission at the Forever Project is to help improve the visitor experience, inform tomorrow through education of people of all ages, and to protect forever through our cultural and natural resources that are unique to Zion and its surrounding landscape,” she added.

WHAT OTHERS ARE READING:

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.