But thanks to years of community planning in Moab, visitors to Arches National Park and other regional attractions don’t have to suffer the same fate, officials said last weekend.
Speaking at the May 31 grand opening of the Lions Park Transit Hub and Colorado River Pathway, Federal Transit Administration representative Dave Beckhouse hailed the $10 million projects as models that other national park gateway communities should follow.
“This is the future,” Beckhouse said. “You guys are at the forefront, and I think you ought to be congratulated for that.”
Grant funding for both projects came entirely from the federal Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks Program, which promotes alternative transportation to and from national parks that face growing challenges, including pollution and overcrowding.
“We want to have access to them in a way that doesn’t ruin them,” Beckhouse said.
The Lions Park Transit Hub, which is located at the intersection of U.S. 191 and state Route 128, meets that goal by serving as a starting-off point for shuttle passengers, bicyclists and others who plan to explore the area.
On the other side of the intersection, the Colorado River Pathway offers safer non-motorized access to the Porcupine Rim Trail, Negro Bill Canyon and other popular recreation areas.
However, the pathway is currently split in two, with a half-mile gap between sections that forces users onto narrow and shoulderless state Route 128 just before Negro Bill Canyon.
Moab Trails Alliance Executive Director Kim Schappert estimates that it would cost $3 million to $4 million to complete the project. But funding for the Sarbanes program is no longer available, so trail supporters will have to look elsewhere for that amount.
Utah State Senate President Wayne Niederhauser gave Schappert and others new reason to hope that a solution might be in sight.
Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said during the event that if he holds on to his leadership position, he will ask state lawmakers to explore funding options.
“I’m hoping that we can maybe look at it [in the legislature] and fill that gap,” Niederhauser said.
Grand County Council chairman Lynn Jackson sounded optimistic that Niederhauser could succeed.
“When the state senate president is an avid biker, I’d say the odds of getting the money are better,” Jackson said June 3.
Niederhauser told the crowd that he has a strong personal interest in Moab.
He’s been coming to the area since 1990, when he first began to ride his mountain bike along the Porcupine Rim Trail.
In those days, the trip ended with a three-mile ride on state Route 128.
Since then, and unbeknownst to Niederhauser, Schappert and many others in the community were working to develop the new pathway along the river.
“It’s a great thing not only for the people who live in Moab, but for those of us who come [here],” Niederhauser said.
The pathway is just one of many local bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly projects have benefitted from more than $22 million in federal, state and local funding sources, according to Utah Department of Transportation Region 4 Director Rick Torgerson.
“It’s all based off … the vision of the trails alliance,” he said.
Torgerson said his agency had its disagreements about the shape that the Colorado River Pathway should take. But he praised the outcome.
“At the end of the day, this certainly helps support our local economy and the quality of life that Utah offers,” he said.