The director of the National Park Service made it clear Wednesday that he is opposed to Gov. Norm Bangerter's plan for Utah to acquire lakeside property within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
"We don't support that," said William Penn Mott of the plan to acquire property for a new resort on Lake Powell. "One of the things that are important is to maintain the quality of an area, and that depends on the number of visitors in an area."In a Deseret News interview during a conference of all national park superintendents, Mott discussed several Utah park issues.
The quality of a park region is "a very subtle thing," he said. Sometimes administrators are not aware of its deterioration until the people stop visiting.
It is difficult to develop criteria that determine how many visitors a park can handle before the load causes deterioration, he said.
Some experts suggest that the quality of the visitors' experience in Glen Canyon will drop if the number of boats on Lake Powell exceeds a particular limit. Sometimes - especially during three-day summer holiday weekends - that limit is already exceeded, Mott said.
Utah's national parks are great assets to the state, he said, even if you look at them only in terms of economic returns.
"I think it certainly makes Utah a unique state in the union because of the beauty and diversity of the park units," he said.
Measuring only National Park Service contribution and direct payments of salaries and purchasing of equipment etc., the park system contributes about $90 million per year to the state's economy, Mott said.
When the tremendous number of visitors to the parks is added, "It's a substantial value, in addition to the inspiration and beauty and quality of life. The parks are in good shape, and we work to keep them that way."
One way the National Park Service does this is through new entrance fees that go to improve the park unit, he said. On the question of adding new units to Utah's national park system, Mott said discussions have been going on, but "I'm not sure that any of those will go very far."
The Park Service must analyze any proposed addition in terms of whether it is suitable, feasible and nationally significant, he said.
The Park Service does not want to duplicate types of parks when some types have not yet been protected.
Mott commented on Utah's recent decision to transfer title to a square mile within Capitol Reef National Park, signing it over to Garfield County. County officials have said they wanted the land as leverage in hopes it will pressure the federal government into providing money to pave the controversial Burr Trail, which crosses Capitol Reef.
"Well, we were disappointed they would do something like that," Mott said. Park Service officials were studying the Burr Trail in an attempt to find out how they could designate it as a national rural scenic route.
"That could be a unique resource for that area," he said. "Just making a paved highway, in my opinion, does not make it a unique resource."
Mott wants to see the rural road paved in a few rough spots with paving material that matches the sandstone formations in the region. Other parts would be graded and graveled. Interpretative signs would explain the natural beauties of the area.
"There aren't very many roads of this kind in the United States today." He said the country has plenty of freeways and paved roads where people can zip along at 60 mph.
In parts, "you ought to slow down," he said. The scenic road would be a low-speed route.
"Just think, 25 years from now, to be able to drive on a slow rural road where the values are interpreted," he said. There is a 17-mile scenic route in California near Carmel that "people pay to drive on," because it is not paved.