Crews began work on Monday, June 16 on a major renovation at the Devils Garden Loop Road and trailhead and both are expected to be closed through June 26, according to Kate Cannon, superintendent of Arches.
The Devils Garden parking area accounts for 20 percent of the overall parking in the park, so park staff will also be monitoring the number of vehicles entering the park, and, if necessary, will temporarily restrict access to avoid overcrowding, Cannon said.
“That’s something we’re really hoping we won’t have to do, but we will take that step if necessary to protect park resources,” she said.
Parking regulations will be “strictly enforced,” Cannon said. To help with that, park employees and volunteers are stationed at the parking lots throughout the park, both to answer visitors’ questions and to prevent illegal parking.
Park Service employees, along with the Moab Area Travel Council and local businesses, are also working to get out the word about the closure and encourage people to visit other scenic areas instead, such as Island in the Sky and the Needles districts of Canyonlands National Park.
As part of the renovation, the Devils Garden parking lot will be reconfigured to add 45 new spaces, which will increase parking by 40 percent, according to figures provided by Sabrina Henry, an environmental protection specialist with the National Park Service’s Southeast Utah Group. Devils Garden will have 155 parking spaces once the work is done, up from the 110 parking spaces previously available.
Parallel parking will be replaced with pull-in parking spaces, and additional spaces are being added for handicapped parking and RVs, Cannon said. New restrooms and a new sidewalk were added to Devils Garden during a construction project last fall.
A turnaround loop has been added to the south end of the Devils Garden Loop Road to allow drivers to safely circle the area when looking for parking. The previous road design forced drivers to make a 3-point turn, which often blocked traffic and presented a safety hazard, according to park officials.
“People sometimes have to circle the parking lot several times before they find a parking space,” Cannon said. “The turnaround road is designed to improve safety.”
Visitation at Arches has grown steadily over the past several years, leading to problems with traffic congestion and inadequate parking, Cannon said. As a result, drivers often park along the sides of the main park road and other entrance roads to features such as the Windows and Delicate Arch, damaging the land, she said.
On Sunday, May 25, Arches hit an all-time record for visitation as 2,751 vehicles streamed into the park.
“We have a heightened concern about crowding in the park, given the record visitation in May,” Cannon said.
For those who do choose to visit Arches, park officials recommend coming to the park prior to 9 a.m. or after 3 p.m.
“We appreciate everyone’s understanding and patience as we continue our efforts to protect park resources while improving park facilities for visitors,” Cannon said in a news release last week.