Arches National Park, located in eastern Utah, not far from Moab, is a very popular destination for climbers and hikers who come to explore the unusual rock formations and deep canyons. The park is famous for its more than 2000 natural rock arches carved out of the sandstone by millions of years of weathering and erosion.
The most famous of those formations is Delicate Arch, a 52 foot tall monument that actually appears on Utah’s license plates. The geological phenomenon seems aptly named, as even though it is made of rock, it is also easily damaged. This was illustrated all too clearly back in 2006 when rock climber Dean Potter scaled the Arch and his ropes left grooves in the sand stone face.The park service quickly responded by restricting climbing within the park, much to the dismay of the climbers who frequented the place.
Now, more than four years after Potter’s controversial climb, the park service is finally working on a formal plan to manage climbing within Arches. That plan has a few basic goals that include protecting the park’s natural resources for future generations to enjoy, while still allowing climbers access to those resources in a safe way that doesn’t damage the rock. The plan also strives to protect the plant and animal life in the park, while engaging the climbing community in a cooperative stewardship program that helps to protect those natural resources as well.
The management plan has a long way to go, as it has just entered the public scoping period in which the park service calls for input from the general public. Moving forward, they’ll also try to define a code of ethics for climbers in the park, clearly define routes, institute a permitting system, and plan out their rescue operations considerations, amongst a host of other issues.
Arches is indeed a spectacular destination for outdoor enthusiasts looking for amazing scenery while they hike or climb. This plan will ensure that visitors to the park will continue to have access to the great natural resources available there, while using them in a safe, ethical way. If you have an opinion on the direction that this plan should go, be sure to weigh in with your thoughts now. You’ll find more information on how to do just that by clicking here.
[Photo credit: Palacemusic via WikiMedia Commons]