A survey has found that many of those who visit Bryce Canyon National Park would like to see fewer people at the popular tourist site - at least when they're there.
And they aren't particularly happy about the horse droppings on the trails either.Still, most come away pleased with their experience. Scenery, of course, tops the list among satisfied visitors, but many indicated keen interest in recreation and the park's geology, wildlife, plants and history as well.
Park and area business leaders and officials at various levels of government believe visitor patterns and opinions noted in the study will aid area merchants and park personnel in planning for the future. The study, completed during the height of the tourist season last July 15-21, was coordinated by Chris Wall, a research associate in University of Idaho's Cooperative Park Studies Unit.
Californians led the pack among U.S. visitors, accounting for 23 percent, while Germans were predominant among foreigner travelers. Some 42 percent of the tourists were international visitors. Substantial numbers visited from Holland, Switzerland and Belgium. The survey didn't include many bus visitors because drivers seemed unwilling to stop and participate in the project, Wall said.
Most visitors to Bryce Canyon learn about the park from travel guides, tour books, friends or relatives. Many decide to visit after poring over maps and guides, while yet others gain their enthusiasm to visit from newspaper and magazine stories. Some learn about the popular tourist site from the Internet.
Weather was a factor in how visitors responded to the survey. As expected, days of clear visibility generated more positive responses. Recreation opportunities also drew attention. Interest was expressed in providing vehicle access to the canyon floor, currently possibly only by hiking or by horse.
Traffic was also a concern. A shuttle system was suggested by 43 percent of the respondents. About 20 percent would like to see automobiles traffic eliminated within the park.
There was some support for wider roads, with more turnouts, more restrooms, more drinking fountains, showers in campgrounds and more campsites or a new campground. Campgrounds were used by 18 percent of the 427 visitor groups who returned questionnaires after they were interviewed at the park.
Overhead aircraft flights and horses earned critical remarks - though both activities are popular among many tourists attracted to the park. About 7 percent of those surveyed rode horses in the park.
In response to resource management questions, 9 percent want the park kept in a natural state, with only limited commercialism, and most want to protect the environment.
In other words, the canyon should come first and visitors second, the survey found.
In fact, most complaints centered around other people. Those surveyed found reason to comment upon rudeness, noisy or unruly children and noisy people. Truly quiet places, they noted, are hard to find. There were complaints about partially clad people, people climbing off trails or over guard rails, too many large groups, too many businesses and poor driving by others. Some concluded there were too many people on the trails.
Regarding park services, a lack of signs and poor quality of food and service brought the highest number of complaints. Others said park maintenance work was annoying, noted a lack of mountain-bike trails and found lodging, campsites and parking to be inadequate.
In addition to the spectacular hoodoos and vistas, park qualities that attracted people to Bryce Canyon included the wilderness environment and open space, recreation and education opportunities, wildlife, solitude and back-country camping. Sunset Point, Sunrise Point, Bryce Point and the visitor center were rated as the most popular sites.
Lengths of visits varied from less than two hours to a day or two, and some tourists spent time seeing attractions outside the park, the study showed. The average visitor group spent $193 at Bryce Canyon Park, while the average per capita spending was $59.
Most visitors said fee charges are about right.
The study found that 40 percent of the adult visitors had annual incomes of $40,000 or more. Some 38 percent of the adult visitors held graduate degrees and 30 percent had earned bachelors degrees.