Author Topic: Utah studies expanding Goblin Valley State Park into San Rafael Swell  (Read 784 times)

Offline Peter Vahry

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Proposals would expand Goblin Valley park by 132,500 acres in Emery County.

By Brian Maffly

| The Salt Lake Tribune
First Published Jun 18 2014

Utah park officials are studying how to expand the boundaries of the 3,500-acre Goblin Valley State Park nearly 40-fold ó encompassing areas popular with OHV riders, hikers, canyoneers and campers.

Last fallís federal government shutdown put numerous southern Utah state parks in the spotlight as alternative destinations after the gates closed on Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Glen Canyon and other national park units.

The influx of visitors to Goblin Valley highlighted problems this area north of Hanksville has experienced in recent years, as more outdoor enthusiasts discover this sandstone wonderland of reefs and narrow canyons rich in ancient rock art, wildlife and relic plant communities.

The federal land around the park, much of it in the renowned San Rafael Swell, is under increasing pressure from recreational use, leaving a string of user-created trails, human waste and other impacts.

The proposed expansion of the state park, which requires the cooperation of the federal Bureau of Land Management, would contain such damage, better serve the recreating public and generate an economic boost to Emery County, according to Tim Smith, Utah State Parks southeast region director.

"We could do better than the current condition. There are problems with overuse and a park could pay for itself," Smith said.

BLM officials have yet to see a formal proposal, but welcomed "working with the state to see how we could partner to further support recreation in the area," said agency spokeswoman Megan Crandall.

Goblin Valley is one of the most profitable parks in the stateís 43-unit system and visitation has doubled over the past four years to more than 90,000 last year. Because the parkís 24-site campground is full every night for about six months a year, dispersed camping has increased around the park and down Wild Horse Creek.

"Itís causing serious impacts to surrounding lands. There are user-developed roads and camp sites," Smith said. "Thousands of people camp down there and thereís not a restroom."

The San Rafael Swell is one of Utahís many stunning natural landscapes, yet it enjoys little formal protection. It is particularly beloved by Wasatch Front residents, who can get there in just three hours and enjoy world-class desert scenery free of tourist throngs.

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