Arches National Park soon could have an official management plan to guide climbing and canyoneering in the park where the geology offers climbers a sprawling playground of options.
In the past, those options have proved too tempting for some. In 2006 noted climber Dean Potter climbed atop Delicate Arch early one morning. That stunt led park officials to revisit the rules for climbing in the park, rules that they had interpreted as stating that no climbing was allowed on named arches.
To eliminate any doubts, Arches officials last year embarked on an effort to formalize climbing regulations for their park.
Last week the park sent out a newsletter discussing these efforts, and pointed to four alternatives currently under consideration. They range from no changes from the current policy and a policy that would revolve around regular monitoring of climbing in the park to a set of specific regulations "to protect park resources and to control climbing and canyoneering activities. It will seek to mitigate climbing and canyoneering-related impacts to the resources by restricting specific climbing and canyoneering activities equally throughout the park."
Anyone who has visited Arches and walked any of its trails can see the enticing opportunities for climbing, bouldering, and canyoneering that abound. And that's the problem. There are so many enticements that some sort of management plan is needed so climbers know the ground rules, so the various arches, outcrops, and cliffs are not damaged by climbing, and so that views enjoyed by other visitors are not dotted with climbers.
Among the "common elements" to each of the three alternatives that would develop a management framework beyond the status quo are:
* All climbing in the park would be free climbing or "clean-aid" climbing in which no permanent aids are installed in the rock walls/faces.
* No pitons would be allowed.
* There would be a proactive education and outreach program for climbers.
* Balanced Rock would remain closed to climbing.
* Any arch or natural bridge named on the USGS 7.5 minute topographical map covering Arches National Park would be closed to climbing.
* Bouldering, slacklining, highlining, BASE jumping, Wingsuit flying, Paragliding, Zip lining, and pendulum swings would be prohibited.
The park's newsletter that addresses the ongoing effort can be found attached below.
Public comment on the proposal is being accepted through March 13 at this site.
If all goes as planned, a draft of the proposed management plan will be released this fall.