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Seeing Delicate Arch on a Utah license plate is just not enough for many people.
The most iconic land formation in the state and Arches National Park's other natural wonders draw more than 1 million people a year, and 2,000 of them visit the trailhead to Delicate Arch at Wolfe Ranch each day during the peak season.
But the existing parking lot has just 73 spaces, and as a result, many visitors park illegally along the road leading into the trailhead and as it heads to the Delicate Arch viewpoint parking lot.
Often, more than 100 vehicles are parked there, and that can damage vegetation and soil as well as pose safety problems.
The National Park Service is seeking public review and comment on an environmental assessment document that proposes strategies to deal with the issue in the park near Moab.
The problem, say Arches superintendent Kate Cannon, is not too many people, but too many cars.
"The parking congestion now chronic in Arches National Park mars the great experience park visitors expect and we strive to deliver. This project is an important part of the solution," Cannon said.
Changes being considered in the Delicate Arch/Wolfe Ranch Site Plan include:
• Expanding the existing parking lot.
• Eliminating roadside parking.
• Requiring reservations for parking at the trailhead.
• Re-channeling Winter Camp Wash to reduce the frequency of road closures due to flooding and sediment deposition.
A shuttle system had been suggested from previous public comments, but the park service determined the use of shuttles "is not a cost-effective means of resolving the congestion issue," according to the environmental assessment.
The length of the road system in Arches, 52 miles total, and the distance between popular areas of the park would, in the best-case scenario, reduce only 23 percent to 28 percent of the vehicles.
The shuttle would require a one-way travel time of one hour and 20 minutes and cost $3 million to run during a five-month season. And that doesn't include the purchase and maintenance of a fleet of 14 buses.
The public can view and provide comment on the environmental assessment through Sept. 25. The plan can be viewed at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/arch.
Hard copies can be reviewed at the Southeast Utah Group Headquarters on Resource Boulevard, at the Arches National Park Visitor Center, and at the Grand County Public Library.
If someone is unable to make comments on the park planning website, they can be mailed to: National Park Service, Southeast Utah Group, Attn: Planning and Compliance Coordinator, 2282 S. West Resource Blvd, Moab, UT 84532.