|PHOTO: National Park Service|
By DAVID KENNARD
SPRINGDALE – Zion National Park will halt its daily shuttle service through Zion Canyon after Sunday. Higher-than-expected crowds this year prompted the National Park Service to extend the shuttle service into the colder weather months.
Visitors traveling to the park will have to use their own transportation -- and compete for limited parking -- in Zion Canyon after Sunday.
Park officials said shuttles will operate on weekends through November 22, and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of Thanksgiving week.
Officials said traffic on Oct. 26, the Monday after shuttles stopped running for the season, traffic quickly overwhelmed the available parking in the canyon.
“Shuttle service routinely ends the last Sunday of October each year,” according to a statement from Zion National Park officials. “However, on Monday, there was far more traffic than the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, with its 400 or so parking spaces, could accommodate safely.
“At 10 a.m., once all the sanctioned parking spaces were filled, entry to Zion Canyon Scenic Drive was regulated to allow visitors to enter the Scenic Drive only as others departed. A number of people who were planning on visiting Zion Canyon were unable to due to the traffic safety, congestion and parking difficulties.”
The park has seen almost visitors increase by nearly 1 million more people over the past two years, according to data provided by the National Park Service.
Officials said last week that overcrowding on some trails is diminishing the extraordinary "Zion experience." Damage to the park resources, such as social trailing and human waste have increased dramatically, officials stated.
"For years we have heard the expression 'Zion is being loved to death,'" said park superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh. "Together with our partners and nearby communities, we must address these problems."
Coming in 2016, the park will implement its Visitor Use Management Plan to help define the park's capacity in key areas, Bradybaugh said. The plan will be tested during the next two to three years, the determine the effectiveness of its adaptive management strategies.
Bradybaugh said in a statement last week that the goal is to “promote safe, enjoyable experiences, protect park resources, ease visitor crowding, and manage traffic and parking congestion as part of the planning process.”
Details about the plan have not yet been released.
IF YOU GO
Shuttle service in the park will operate between 7 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. This will be mandatory for access to the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Visitors can board the shuttle in the usual locations within the park and on the Springdale Town route. A single shuttle bus will run through Springdale starting at the Majestic Lodge at 9 a.m. The last town shuttle will leave the Park's pedestrian entrance at about 6:45 p.m.