Zion National Park in southwestern Utah is the poster child for the crowding of America’s most hallowed natural places. With its soaring and magisterial red, dun, and white rock cliffs with grand names such as the Court of the Patriarchs and the Temple of Sinawava, Zion is at the top of the list of the nation’s most dramatic scenery.
Yale Environment 360 reported that Zion is also small as parks go, just under 150,000 acres and has only one main road, six miles long. Yet Zion gets as many visitors as Yellowstone, more than 4.3 million a year, even though Yellowstone is nearly fifteen times larger.
“In the last few years, this huge uptick in visitation has overwhelmed our infrastructure facilities, our trails, our backcountry, it goes on and on and on,” said John Marciano, a spokesman for Zion. “We can’t sit on our hands anymore. We have to come up with some kind of management plan to be able to preserve resources and to make sure our visitors have a good and safe experience.”
Saving a landscape as a national park is only part of the preservation battle – saving the spirit of these places is also essential. National parks are often thought of as America’s natural cathedrals – serene, contemplative places to visit and be restored by a connection to wild nature and grandeur.
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