Zion Natl Park Forever Project
Certainly for many of us in Southern Utah, and most certainly for many of you as well, the relationship we have with Zion National Park involves a very real sense of ownership, especially for those of us who visit often or have a nostalgic connection. There is no exaggeration in saying that Zion is one of the most spectacularly beautiful places on the Planet, but one aspect of the Park that often goes overlooked is the work that goes into keeping it that way. As you might expect, national parks don’t run and maintain themselves. It takes a lot (and we mean a lot) of planning, man-hours, and money to maintain, repair, and improve the place we know and love. And the truth is that resources have been sparse, to say the least, for a long time. During a time of record visitation to the park, federal funding has been flat to declining. Not only that, but the President’s proposed budget contains additional cuts to the NPS budget. Pair that with the steady, yearly increase in the number of visitors (60% increase since 2010) and, well, you get the idea. Unfunded repairs have reached almost $60 million, and that’s only one category of pressing issues. The reality that has been created in considering all of this is that Zion’s integrity simply cannot be maintained without help.
You’ll be grateful to know that there is a special group of people who, like us, feel that special connection to the Park and are, in fact, doing something about these issues and are making some real headway. The Zion Natl Park Forever Project has created a platform that is providing the help mentioned above that is so desperately needed. This organization is the official nonprofit partner of Zion National Park and is on a very deliberate mission to address the issues of the Park and help provide it with what it needs to survive and flourish for years to come. This grassroots organization, formerly known as the Zion National History Association) was first established in 1929 by Springdale residents providing visitors with educational materials, maps, and guides about the park. Now, reempowered and refocused under a new name and logo that incorporates the symbolic “Infinite Z,” they’ve successfully melded 90 years of experience and brought together its Park stores, field programs, and philanthropy under one banner to foster a new and reinvigorated generation of park stewards.
This is where you come in. Not only are you a part of this movement, you are instrumental in its success. Through spreading awareness, volunteer work, donations, and fundraising, anyone and everyone who values the Park in any capacity can join hands with the group with even the smallest participation. In addition to raising funds, even something as simple as liking the Zion Natl Park Forever Facebook page and sharing information about it online adds kindling to the fire and brings the message closer to those around us. But in reality, even if only half of Zion’s 4.3 million annual visitors were to offer just $1 to the Project, the restorative and developmental effects on the Park would be utterly transformative.
The Zion Natl Park Forever Project, in collaboration with park officials, have put together the Park’s first ever Field Guide which identifies and outlines the specific costs of the park’s highest project priorities for the 2018 season, and can be viewed on their official website. Some of these include constructing various special needs-access points, numerous much-needed trail rehabilitation, expanding the Junior Ranger Program to accommodate the ever-increasing number of young visitors, and the further research of archaeological sites inside Park boundaries. The combined proposed cost of all planned projects is $3 million. By preparing and presenting an annual Field Guide to the park’s highest project priorities, those spearheading the project have brought the real needs of the Park into public awareness in hopes that this transparency will generate a natural sense of accountability and stewardship to all who care about Zion National Park.
Visit zionpark.org, the official website of the Zion Natl Park Forever Project, for more information on the organization itself, its mission, and what you can do to help.