Road Project Tough on Local Businesses

Zion's switchbacks need work

It’s interesting what this article doesn’t report: all the problems, confusions, and inconveniences experienced by the area visitors. If we consider each of the 50 businesses who demanded this meeting serve 50 – 250 visitors/ day, it’s reasonable to project they represent 2,500 – 12,500 people who are having trouble every day figuring out when or how they’ll be able to continue with their vacations plans. The Park could use this network of businesses as allies IF they worked to keep them informed well ahead of time… unfortunately, this is not how this project was carried out.

Business owners say Zion project too costly
Zion National Park » They say they weren’t asked for project input.
By Mark Havnes
The Salt Lake Tribune, 
Updated: 06/18/2010 09:54:24 PM MDT

Zion National Park » Kane County business owners and local elected officials are demanding changes to a construction project inside the east entrance to Zion National Park that they claim is choking off traffic and money during the height of the tourist season.

At a Thursday night meeting run by a facilitator hired by the National Park Service, Zion Superintendent Jock Whitworth promised he would have a new plan for the construction schedule by Monday.

The $6 million project involves the road between the east entrance and Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Workers are milling and grading the roadway down to its original elevation, compacting the road base, shoring up the historic retaining walls, providing drainage for groundwater and repaving.
Work began in early June and has meant the entrance is closed on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Zion officials say the east entrance is used by about a third of park visitors, which in 2009 numbered about 2.7 million. The park’s south entrance, which is a two-hour drive from the east entrance, remains open, as does Zion’s main scenic road, lodge and shuttle system.

The main complaint of the approximately 50 people at Thursday’s meeting was that the closure, expected to last through October, comes at the height of the tourist season and is causing profits to drop precipitously. Business owners say they had little or no warning of the construction.

State Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, who represents the area, threatened court action if nothing is done to address the economic losses. He claimed the socioeconomic component of the project’s environmental assessment is flawed because it underestimated the impact on business during construction.

He said businesses along the highways leading to the east entrance have a small window of opportunity during the tourist season to make a living. “We need to go back to the drawing board.”

If Whitworth delivers on his pledge of a new plan, it would be the fourth since the road closures began June 7. Any new construction schedule is likely to include more work at night.

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About Nick

Nick Wilkes found ZAC in 1996, working first as an outfitter, then a guide, then as webmaster. An ardent adventure enthusiast, Nick's recent exploits involve laying down roots in Wisconsin, chasing his kids around the house, working as a Madison, WI photographer and growing his Wisconsin climbing business. Connect with Nick on Facebook, Google+, or directly via email.
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