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In a recent press release, Arches National Park Superintendent, Laura Joss, stated that the park will be creating a Climbing Management Plan, which is intended to “consider a full range of alternatives to protect resources, visitors and visitor experience.” What this means for climbing is up in the air, but it seems reasonable to assume that some restrictions on climbing will be put in place.
In the past, no such management plan existed, though there were some restrictions on climbing activity within the park (to find current guidelines, visit www.nps.gov/arch/planyourvisit/climbing.htm). As the new plan is developed, the park will be accepting input from the public. “We want to work with climbers and all user groups,” Joss said in a telephone interview, “we’ve already received over 140 comments.”
The press release also stated that the new plan is in response to “unusual climbing activities” that occurred in 2006. Joss was unwilling to comment on the nature of these “unusual activities”, but it may well have something to do with Dean Potter’s well-publicized and controversial free solo of The Delicate Arch in the park.
The Double-O arch from the Fiery Furnace Trail, Arches National Park, Utah.Photo by Luke Laeser
Though it may be hard for climbers to see the silver lining in the developments at Arches, it may be a necessary evil: as traffic in Arches increases (over 850,000 visitors used the park in 2006, according to Joss), impact from climbers and non-climbers alike is bound to become more of an issue. And the fact that management at the park seems genuinely interested in climber input is a good sign.
Comments on the scoping phase, in which the issues to be examined are selected, will be accepted until May 4th. It is usually that case, according to Jason Keith, Policy Director for the Access Fund, that a second round of comments will be opened after the scoping is complete and a draft of “alternative” plans is drawn up. It could be quite some time before this second round, but keep your eye out for it — climber input will be valuable then, too.
To read the full press release, visit: http://www.nps.gov/arch/parknews/news030907.htm
Comments regarding the scoping of the management plan can be submitted up until May 4th, 2007: Via the internet at http://parkplanning.nps.gov
By mail to Superintendent, Arches National Park,PO Box 907, Moab, UT 84532.