Zion National Park Developing Soundscape Management Plan

Zion National Park officials are developing a soundscape management plan. NPT file photo of Kolob Arch.

Shhhhhh! What would you hear in Zion National Park if there were no mechanical sounds? That should be an interesting question to discuss as park officials develop a soundscape management plan to protect natural sound in the park.

If you stop and listen in most parks, you'd be surprised at the clatter. The slamming of vehicle doors, the beep-beep-beep of buses and trucks backing up in some of the larger parks, the deliveries being made to restaurants and shops.

At Zion, Superintendent Jock Whitworth says the park is beginning a Soundscape Management Planning and Environmental Assessment Process. The purpose of this plan is (1) to link soundscape management to the existing park management direction, (2) to define the existing ambient soundscape, (3) to provide objectives and standards for future management of the sound environment, and (4) to identify potential management actions designed to ensure that soundscape objectives and standards are met so that natural soundscapes are protected for present and future generations.

The park will accept comments until April on what issues should be considered in putting together a soundscape management plan. On Monday, March 15 park staff will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. at the Kanab City Library in Kanab, Utah, to discuss developing a management plan to protect Zion's natural sound environment. A second meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 16 in Springdale at the Canyon Community Center, 126 Lion Blvd.

If you wish to comment, please visit the National Park Service planning website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/zion or by mailing comments to: Zion National Park, Soundscape Management Plan/EA, Springdale, UT 84767.

You can learn about natural sounds and the National Park Service soundscape management program at: www.nature.nps.gov/natural sounds.

Comments

Wow this is great. I will definitely comment on the planning website. I visited Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Grand Canyon for the first time last year. Without a doubt the unnatural sounds in these beautiful environments was a distraction to the otherwise desired ethereal effects. I think of the remark made on Ken Burns' "The National Parks" series to make my point. A Yosemite Park Ranger commented on one woman's first response to seeing the Valley, "Oh my. Oh my!" This expression cannot come just from the visual, but also combined with the auditory senses. Whoever elicited an "oh my" when they hear a bus go "beep, beep, beep"? My heart sagged just a little bit when I was a few thousand feet up hiking a Zion trail, absolutely enraptured with the experience, when there it was, the "beep, beep, beep".

Parks with narrow canyons like those in Zion are especially vulnerable to noise pollution because sounds are reflected off the hard surfaces. Noise at one point can easily be heard by visitors way up and down the canyon. This is an advantage for the canyon wren.

I remember a dark midnight many years ago when I had tossed my sleeping bag down on the forest floor near the top of Cable Mountain in Zion. I awoke some time during the night to hear . . . . ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. There was no sound whatsoever. No breeze in the trees. No water sounds because there was no water for a mile or more. No insects. No night birds. NOTHING!

It was almost frightening. I think I lay there for about half an hour before a high-flying jet finally passed over and gave me something to listen to. That little sound was almost a relief.

It was an absolutely unforgettable experience. One that could only be had in a place like Zion. And it was wonderful.