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    Moab mayor proposes May 29 reopening of parks

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    Niehaus says businesses, visitors need certainty

    Devils Garden
    A photo from the Devils Garden hike in Arches National Park. Moab Mayor Emily Niehaus recently said she would be sending a letter to the National Park Service requesting they plan for a May 29 reopening, including of the campgrounds. Photo by Carter Pape

    Moab Mayor Emily Niehaus said Wednesday, May 6 that she would send a letter to the National Park Service to support a planned reopening date for Arches and Canyonlands national parks of May 29, an effort to continue “moving forward with our new normal,” and to create certainty for local businesses and visitors.

    “That’s a month away,” Niehaus said. “We will see cases and how we deal with them between now and May 29. I certainly reserve the right to change my mind if our spike is unmanageable. But business needs hard target dates, and we need to minimize confusion for potential visitors.”

    Angie Richman, chief of interpretation and visitor services for Arches and Canyonlands, said that park management “has developed a draft plan for a phased resumption of operations for Arches and Canyonlands” but that park service leaders “do not have a firm date for when this resumption will occur.”

    Richman added that the park service is following guidance from the White House, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, as well as “regional and national guidance and our local community” to make a decision on when to resume operations for the two parks.

    “The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers and partners continues to be paramount in the decision-making process,” Richman said.

    Moab Regional Hospital CEO Jen Sadoff said she also supported the target date Niehaus proposed.

    “I understand that there are issues with employee housing that won’t allow them to fully staff up, so pushing it past Memorial Day seems like a thoughtful plan,” Sadoff said. “May 29 is a long way out and gives us some space to see how the first soft opening impacts the community.”

    Bradon Bradford, director of the Southeast Utah Health Department, said that he does “not know the exact date the parks are planning to resume operations” and that many factors go into that decision, including the local health order, the health status of the community, the availability of seasonal workers and more.

    “From our perspective, resuming operations sometime after Memorial Day fits with the phased reopening we continue to plan,” Bradford said.

    Niehaus said that she would support reopening park service campgrounds as well, which she said from her experience working in Bryce Canyon National Park are managed more like private campgrounds than those that the Bureau of Land Management manages.

    “More basically, I think moving forward with our new normal is important,” Niehaus said. “Businesses trying to reopen need assurance that visitors will come. Opening the parks shows confidence.”

    Moab Area Travel Council Director Elaine Gizler said she was not aware of the specific proposal to reopen the parks on May 29 but that she does support the parks.

    “I support the national parks and all of our land agencies that they will make the best decisions for opening, having hired their staff, having them fully trained, and being able to help visitors visit responsibly,” Gizler said.

    Niehaus said the park service had requested the letter of support from her, as well as one from Grand County Council Chairperson Mary McGann, who said she supports the plan.

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