The Moab City Council has once again put off a vote on a resolution that would express support of the Arches National Park traffic congestion management plan, commonly known as the “reservation system,” which would require park visitors to make appointments to enter.
At the same meeting on March 21, the council hurried to approve another Arches traffic–related resolution, this one to seek Moab’s share of $100 million set aside by the Utah Department of Transportation for traffic mitigation projects in the state’s tourism “hotspots.”
Timing drove the manner in which the council handled both resolutions.
“How long do we let this go?” Council Member Tawny Knuteson-Boyd asked, regarding a suggestion that the council postpone for a third time the resolution in support of the Arches reservation plan.
“We have had things that we have tabled out and out, and it becomes a little bit absurd,” Knuteson-Boyd said. “As a council we need to take a stand.”
The first time the council considered it, business leaders in Moab raised enough concern to give council members pause about doing something that economic influencers felt so strongly against.
In a subsequent meeting, the council invited Arches Supervisor Kate Cannon to explain the reservation plan in an effort to mollify the business community. That didn’t happen to any great extent, though officials with the Moab Area Chamber of Commerce agreed to host Cannon in a venue where she could address specific concerns and explain the plan in even more depth.
That tête-à-tête, however, never happened as Council Member Mike Duncan noted that the Chamber of Commerce had withdrawn its offer.
Since the last meeting though, Cannon and the National Park Service had begun working with a consultant to study the potential economic impact of the reservation plan, in addition to the legally required environment assessment that was done last fall.
“I am open to tabling the motion until the study is complete ... assuming the study can be complete in time to accommodate any decision the park wishes to make,” Duncan said.
Cannon had indicated previously that the earliest the park would be ready to make a decision would be June, though there seemed to be some confusion on the part of council members that there was a soft deadline in June.
Mayor Emily Niehaus’ opinion aligned with Duncan’s.
“While it’s exciting to move forward on a resolution, I think it’s encouraging to see what happens with the study as well,” Niehaus said.
And even though Council Member Karen Guzman-Newton is personally in favor of the reservation plan and would likely vote to support the resolution, she said, “In order for the community that we represent ... to feel that they were heard and represented, it seems justified to wait.”
“I think the dialogue needs to continue,” Council Member Kalen Jones acquiesced, though he indicated that voting then on the resolution would not preclude further dialogue from happening. “I think our resolution supports that, and I’m ready to support it now,” Jones said.
At the end of the discussion, Knuteson-Boyd was also swayed, voting with a 3-2 majority to let the measure rest a while longer.
The council felt the press of urgency on another resolution expressing support for “hotspot” transportation funding; the resolution was approved by a 4-1 vote, with Duncan being the lone “no” vote.
With recent controversy about Main Street construction projects and the potential impact on businesses — particularly with regard to on-street parking — Duncan said he was reticent to vote for anything that might let UDOT do something that Main Street business owners were staunchly against.
“I certainly can’t speak for UDOT, but at the end of the day, if the community doesn’t want it, it’s not going to get built,” Moab City Manager Everitt said.
And time was of the essence, Everitt said, if the Moab area wanted to see any hotspot funding at all — even if only a fraction of the statewide funds are available. UDOT’s Transportation Commission could begin making hotspot-funding decisions, or at least get the funding process going as early as mid-April.
“The hotspot committee has a timeframe that they have to act upon,” Knuteson-Boyd said.