Arches economic study delayed ’til fall
Reservation system impacts remain unknown

The National Park Service’s anticipated economic analysis of its proposed reservation system was not completed in June as first planned, according to Amy Tendick, planning officer for the NPS. The agency is continuing the planning process for its “Traffic Congestion Management Plan,” an attempt to alleviate crowding in Arches National Park, and expects to have a final decision this fall.

Meanwhile, Moab businessman Michael Liss, chair of the Moab Transit Authority Study Committee, has proposed a number of options short of the reservation system, and has told the NPS that his organization continues “to work on a shuttle and bicycle-based transportation solution” for Arches that could be implemented between Grand County and the NPS. The next meeting of the transit authority is Friday, July 27 at 3 p.m. in the conference room of Moab City Hall.

According to a July 11 press release from NPS, more than 400 comments were received in response to the draft plan, and the agency has been reviewing the comments and revising the plan.

“We received quite a bit of feedback on the proposal,” said Kate Cannon, superintendent of the Southeast Utah Group. “It takes time to consider each of the comments and determine how we can revise the plan to mitigate some of the concerns while finding space in the plan to include some of the good suggestions.”

Tendick told Liss in an email that the economic analysis wasn’t finished in June because “our contractor requested additional time to incorporate more data. We will be revising the environmental analysis and responding to public comments based on the analysis and conclusions presented in the final economic study,” said Tendick. “We will release the final economic study to the public along with our revised environmental assessment in the next couple of months, when all are complete.”

Liss, who among others had been anxiously awaiting the NPS economic study in June, posed a number of questions in light of the new delay. “Did the Arches NPS not like the conclusions of the Economic Study?” he asked The Times-Independent. “Did the economic study conclude that the EA would have a significant impact on the local economy? How did the Arches NPS suddenly find ‘new economic data’ to change their economic study?” Tendick’s response was that the NPS contractor that is compiling the information wanted more time to incorporate more data.

Tendick did not elaborate any further, but confirmed that the final environmental assessment will be revised “based on the final economic study.” She added, “Once the park incorporates revisions to the plan, it will be submitted for agency approval before being made available to the public this fall. The NPS will “release our final plan and the economic study to the public,” at that date-uncertain time this autumn.

Any proposed changes to traffic management will not affect visitors in the park until summer of 2019, at the earliest, Cannon pointed out. She also said the NPS does not comment on any specific revisions to the proposed plan until the review is finished. “We want to get the plan right and you can be sure we are working on it,” said Cannon.