Worried about the effects of increased visitation, the National Park Service has begun to plan the future of Rainbow Bridge.
Park officials cite "increasing boat traffic and use, and concern about safety and overcrowding in the small land area at Rainbow Bridge."The sandstone span is the world's largest natural bridge and is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It was designated a national monument by President William Howard Taft in 1910.
At one time, seeing the bridge required an arduous hike from the Colorado River. But today access is simple for anyone with a power boat on Lake Powell.
When Lake Powell was created, Congress set up Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The recreation area surrounds the monument, and its superintendent manages the monument.
In the mid-1980s, when the reservoir filled, an arm of the lake intruded beneath the bridge. Superintendent John Lancaster said he wants public comments for a general management plan that is being prepared for the bridge. An environmental assessment on the plan will be available for public review in late 1989.
"Protection of the natural and cultural resources of the Rainbow Bridge area is a growing concern as visitation to Lake Powell and the monument continues to grow." Issues that need to be resolved include questions about access, facilities and services, he said.
Objectives of the management plan are to preserve the monument's cultural and natural resources from deterioration, and to provide a safe, high-quality visitor experience.
A brochure issued by the Park Service asks for comments on these issues:
- Resource protection. "The growth in visitation to the monument in recent years has increased resource damage such as trampling of vegetation, rock graffiti and disruption of the tranquility of the monument. How can we best strike a balance between preservation of the monument and the need to provide for visitor use? What religious significance does Rainbow Bridge have to Native Americans and how have they traditionally used the monument?"
- Quality visitor experience. "Should the visitor experience in the monument be different from that on the rest of Lake Powell?"
- Access. "Is the current lake access to the monument safe? Are boat wakes and noise a problem? Is dock space at the monument sufficient to handle the current traffic levels? Does access into the monument need to be restricted or controlled to alleviate safety or overcrowding problems?"
- Interpretation. How can the Park Service best help the visitors understand and appreciate the bridge?
- Facilities and services. Which ones are needed there to serve visitors and preserve the monument? "Are the existing facilities enough, too much or inadequate?"
The Park Service is also soliciting comments on any other area of concern. Those interested in the project should address a note to Superintendent, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, P.O. Box 1507, Page, AZ 86040.
If the correspondent requests, the Park Service will put him on a mailing list about the project.