Representatives of state and federal agencies responsible for managing area lands receiving increasingly heavy recreational use have been asked to find funding to reduce impacts along the river road.
At a Grand County Blue Ribbon Committee meeting last week, Moab City Council representative Christie Robbins said public lands agencies should mitigate environmental, health and safety impacts in the area.Mike Grosjean, representing the State Division of Lands and Forestry-Sovereign Lands Office, agreed the state and U.S. Bureau of Land Management should assume primary responsibility for river lands in question.
Grosjean said he would approach state administrators about including monies for river impact projects in fiscal 1989-90 budgets currently being considered - provided the committee prepares a timely request that meets criteria for budget requests and has good backing from the community.
Dave Minor, BLM recreation planner from the Grand Resource Area Office, suggested the group prepare a line-item funding request like the $150,000 proposal submitted to Congress by Rep. Howard Nielson (R-Utah) for development of Kokopelli's Trail. Nielson's field representative, Sue Cook, is a member of the committee.
Chairman Dave Bierschied, Moab Chamber of Commerce president, also plans to meet with the trail's founders in Colorado to see how they gained governmental and political support so quickly.
The mountain-bike trail, linking Moab with Grand Junction, Colo., was proposed in late winter, built by spring and dedicated in May.
Minor said the BLM also has a volunteer now handing out trash bags on a daily basis at sites along the river, along with brochures urging respectful land use.
The only negative response to the idea of federal funding was from Tony Schetzsle, Canyonlands National Park chief ranger.
Despite his active participation on the panel and support for goals of the committee, Schetzsle said the park service cannot help financially and has consistently declined such aid to other groups in similar circumstances in the past.
"We have watched funding flowing from other agencies (to groups like this), but the park service has not had that kind of funding," he said. "By all means, we are very, very concerned with what is going on alongside the parks. Right now, we aren't in a position to help."
The committee plan, unanimously adopted, was formulated in May and outlines a three-phase plan over a five-year period to fund, develop, operate and maintain on a permanent basis facilities and programs protective of the environment, public health and safety, in support of tourism and recreation.
The group was formed in response to community concerns over trash and waste buildup from increased visitor use of U-128 and other undeveloped areas as campsites.
"I'm excited the way you people are going, and I think you're going to beat it," Merv Lawton, Grand County Commission chairman, told the group. "The last thing we want is for the tourist to say, I'm not going back there. It's a matter of, we have to be hosts and hostesses, and that means a lot."
Among goals are development of a low-impact recreation ethic and means for educating visitors and others about low-impact use of natural resources; filling developed campgrounds and commercial accommodations to prevent overload on undeveloped areas; and educating decision-makers about the magnitude of visitation and impacts on the lands, community support for mitigation, and importance of recreation and tourism to the economy.
A primary objective is to accomplish the goals in a manner that avoids sensationalizing negative aspects of increased tourism or that harms tourism and recreation, the statement says.