You are missing the point and it and it doesn’t just suck for backcountry campers it sucks for every nearly all of the 1.4 million visitors to Arches National Park.
Recently the Salt Lake City Tribute reported that ‘Arches National Parks stops issuing backpacking permits’. (http://www.sltrib.com/home/4444606-155/arches-national-park-stops-issuing-backpacking) It sends you to a National Park Service website that says the following:
‘The current Backountry Management Plan for Arches National Park was completed in 1988. In the past 10 years, the number of backpacking permits issued has increased more than 500%. It is time for the park to examine the resource impacts caused by this increased use and to update the Backcountry Management Plan. Effective September 6, 2016, and for the duration of the project, backcountry overnight use has been suspended.’ (https://www.nps.gov/arch/planyourvisit/backpacking_moratorium.htm)
My first problem with this statement is that it is factually inaccurate. The National Park Service publicly releases statistics about monthly visitation to our National Parks that go back to 1979. In 2015 there were 1,208 backcountry campers in Arches National Park. In 2005 there were 471 backcountry campers. That is only a 256% increase. Here is a bigger look at the data, and you can check it out on the website here: https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/Reports/Park/ARCH
Beyond the data quoted by Arches National Park being inaccurate, their approach is also misguided. Last year 1,399,247 people visited Arches National Park, a record number. Of those visitors 0.08% of them were individuals who went camping in the backcountry. That means that 1 out of every 1,158 people that enter the park camp in the backcountry. We are talking about a tiny portion of the parks visitors. Even when you compare backcountry to all other types of camping in Arches it only amounted to 2.4% of all campers. It’s like trying to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by coming down on people who ride their horses to work, because horse farts are increasing the amount of methane in the atmosphere and forgetting all together that cars are a much bigger part of the problem.
The Salt Lake City Tribune even ran an article on May 16th of this year saying ‘Expect Traffic Jams at Arches National Park on Memorial Day Weekend’. They note that in 2015 the Utah Highway Patrol had to shut down the entrance to the park for two hours because of the traffic. You would imagine that they would try and fix the problem this year, right?!
No, you would wrong. It was so bad that I heard stories from friends that they started just letting people in without paying fees and that it was a complete nightmare.
If you look around the Arches National Park website you will find a page called ‘Traffic and Travel Tips’ on that page they say ‘To avoid long lines at the entrance gate and parking congestion, plan your visit before 8am or after 3pm.’ There is even a graph that shows vehicle entrances in the park and suggests that from mid-March to mid-October the parking lots are full for most of the day. Remember, only 1 out of 1,158 of these people are backcountry campers.
Arches. We live in 2016 and they have these things called busses. They transport a lot of people and they do it efficiently. Yet, you don’t have any. Zion and Denali National Parks both closed their roads and run an incredible bus system. Bryce Canyon, Yosemite, and Acadia National Parks didn’t close their roads, but still run nice bus systems. Your park is one of the best candidates for a bus system, because there are so few stops. I am not a traffic engineer, but let me draw up some plans for you. Put a stop at Park Avenue, Balanced Rock, The Windows, Delicate Arch, Fiery Furnace, Sand Arch and Devil’s Garden. It would honestly be that easy.
Maybe you could even put a webcam and focus it on Delicate Arch, or The Windows instead of looking at your traffic webcams you could have some screens in the visitor’s center that would divert traffic, or even provide people living in other places the opportunity to tune in.
I don’t know why you have decided to pick on backcountry campers, but shame on you. Shame on you for falsely claiming a 500% increase in backcountry permits to justify your actions. Shame on you for taking away the most intimate experience that one can have with a National Park and shame on you for disrespecting the 1.4 million visitors who visit your park failing to do something about your horrendous and self noted traffic problems.