Committee to study tourism impacts

By Zenaida Sengo • The Times-Independent

The Grand County Council on Sept. 18 approved a new study group designed to focus on the impacts of tourism in Grand County and how to respond to them.

Council Member Jaylyn Hawks previously proposed the concept for a new committee, in collaboration with Walt Dabney and Liz Thomas, who will serve as the study group’s initial members.

Dabney is a retired superintendent of the National Park Service’s Southeast Utah Group, and Thomas is a retired attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. When referencing the study group’s objective, Hawks said, “My vision for it is brainstorming to come up with concrete solutions to the problems that we’re facing … with a specific purpose of working with our public land partner agencies to explore options for utilizing transient room tax promotional money to promote responsible and sustainable recreation and tourism in Grand County.”

Hawks also stated the committee would “nominate additional members as is appropriate” and include the appointment of a committee chair. She believes “most citizens would like to see transient room tax money spent in a little different way, to boost responsible and sustainable tourism,” and she stated her willingness to serve on the committee.

The council discussed how members of the group would be chosen, whether new members would need to be approved by the Grand County Council and what type of funds, if any, would be needed. It was determined it would be a casual committee, not by resolution, thus not needing members to be officially approved by council, and also not requiring financial help.

“I think it’s a great idea, citizens playing an active role in the community,” said Council Member Evan Clapper. When acknowledging the efforts the Moab Area Travel Council has put into solving some of these issues, Clapper also noted, “The Travel Council has a lot on their plate. I think a proposal of who is included is homework for the committee.”

Hawks assured the inclusion of the voices of public land agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, Sovereign Lands, and the Sandflats Stewardship Committee, as well as other relevant entities.

The creation of the study group was approved 4 to 1. Council Member Rory Paxman voted against the measure.