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Utah members of Congress oppose visitor limits at Zion National Park

Cars travel a road in Zion National Park, Utah, on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016.
Cars travel a road in Zion National Park, Utah, on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016.
Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s congressional delegation opposes a proposed reservation system that would limit visitors to Zion National Park.

All six members of the delegation signed a letter Monday urging Interior Secretary David Barnhardt to consider local solutions to preserve access to the nation’s fourth-most visited national park. More than 4.4 million people last year toured the park, which is struggling under a deferred maintenance backlog of $70 million.

The National Park Service is considering a reservation system to ease congestion and impacts on the landscape. The Utah delegation says it would likely result in reducing the number of visitors and hurt the economy.

“State and local leaders have proposed several solutions including improved public outreach and use of the state’s marketing resources, state and local investment in trails or road infrastructure alternatives outside of Zion Canyon, and shuttle system changes to manage peak visitation,” according to the letter.

“We urge the department to carefully evaluate these proposals rather than pursuing burdensome visitor limitations and reservation systems.”

The bipartisan letter is signed by Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, GOP Reps. Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart and John Curtis and Democrat Rep. Ben McAdams.

Park officials extended the free shuttle service to Dec. 1 for the past two years. About 7 million rides are offered through the shuttle service each year.

Currently, the Weeping Rock, Hidden Canyon and Observation Point trails are indefinitely closed due to rockfall damage. The Lower Emerald Pools Trail is closed for repairs until this spring.