"Typically if you ask people overall did they have a good experience, they're largely going to say, 'Yes,' because they got to see the Grand Canyon or Yosemite or Yellowstone or these gorgeous, beautiful, iconic places," Cahill said. "But when you dig a little deeper, you might find out that there were things they experienced that could've been better."
Cahill is currently working with Zion to develop a long-term plan for managing the crowds.
With national parks, it's not just about cramming in as many people as possible; it's about making sure they're having the best possible park experience.
At this point, everything is on the table -- even the possibility of requiring permits or timed-entry reservations.
"In certain locations that might be a very effective and needed tool to ensure that people are having those great experiences, and that those resources are protected," Cahill said.
In the short term, Zion is doing its best to brace itself for the summer.
Preparations include some new porta-potties: "They are new for this year. We're going to measure the times those doors open and close, and each time they're pumped out, we'll have a volume measurement," Bradybaugh said.
"Wow. That's a fun job," Knighton laughed.
"Yeah, yeah. That's one we like to contract out."
Arrive early enough, wander far enough, and it's still possible to escape the crowds. And if you end up having to wait a bit, well, there are worse places to be stuck in traffic.
For more info:
- Zion National Park, Utah
- Park Planning and Special Studies Division, National Park Service
- Utah Office of Tourism
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