Moab City Council and the Grand County Commission held a joint workshop on June 22 just before the regular city council meeting to hear a presentation from Kara Dohrenwend on the work of the Mill Creek Community Collaborative, a local stakeholder group. who discussed management tactics in the increasingly popular recreation areas along Mill Creek.
Dohrenwend is the director of Rim to Rim Restoration, a local non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration and conservation of native vegetation, and has been involved in the planning and restoration efforts of Mill Creek since the 1990s. is addressed to the Board and Commission on behalf of a group of approximately 40 people representing 17 agencies and organizations as well as private owners who have been participating since 2018 in a more formalized stakeholder group, the Mill Creek Community Collaborative. The group completed a document detailing a set of specific recommendations for new management strategies for the area that address parking, access, trails, signs and potential charges.
âYou all know how things have changed in Moab, you know how many people are here, how many people it creates,â Dohrenwend told meeting attendees, posting photos of crowds of visitors in the Powerdam parking lot and in the popular waterfall area at the north fork of Mill Creek. These visitors cause damage to natural resources such as plants, biological soil crusts and animal habitat, and the increase in the number of people also leads to an increase in the frequency of search and rescue operations or medical situations. emergency. Emergency responders carrying equipment and sometimes patients can cause even more damage to these natural resources.
Stakeholders watching this increased use have sought to remedy it for years. In the 1990s, Dohrenwend said, surveys showed that many locals preferred a âkeep a secretâ approach to protecting Mill Creek Canyon. The hotels have agreed not to carry any materials promoting the canyon, and the BLM has agreed not to issue commercial permits for the area or promote it as a recreation site. However, over the past decade, online data centers and social media have supplanted other methods of sharing and promoting information, hence the need for more active management. Surveys conducted by the MCCC in 2019 and 2020 found that more respondents support more active management strategies.
“It’s time to do something different, just ‘telling no one’ doesn’t work anymore,” Dohrenwend said, summing up the dominant view reported by the polls.
To guide its discussions on how best to manage the beloved area, the MCCC has developed a vision statement, defining its mission as follows:
“Collaboratively address the impacts of increased recreational use at Mill Creek Canyon by providing access to a quality experience for visitors to the canyon in a way that protects the natural and cultural resources of the backyard of Moab and tackle the impacts on neighboring neighborhoods. “
Dohrenwend summed up the group’s goal by saying, âThe real crux was the need to really tackle the impacts on the natural world.
The group also gathered community feedback through surveys, seeking to gauge what users value most about Mill Creek and what types of management strategies they would support.
Complexities and recommendations
The Mill Creek area, Dohrenwend explained, presents complex management challenges in part because it is owned or adjacent to properties owned by many organizations and individuals, including the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, the Office of Land Management, the city of Moab and Grand County. Dohrenwend reminded meeting attendees that a new subdivision has been approved for the open area on either side of Powerhouse Lane leading to the Powerdam parking lot, which will add more stakeholders as well as additional congestion at the already access point. Very used.
The MCCC has also identified four distinct use areas along the Mill Creek corridor. The “Urban Creek” area runs through town, where the town’s Mill Creek Parkway follows the creek, and is heavily used for transportation across town. The MCCC did not approach this area with recommendations, but focused on what it designated as the frontcountry, midcountry and hinterland areas in the Powerdam region. . The foreland encompasses the Powerdam parking area up to the waterfall; average country refers to the walking path on the southern rim of the canyon popular with locals, close to residential areas; and the hinterland encompasses much of the right fork of the canyon and the left hand beyond the waterfall.
Dohrenwend said that for the riparian corridor, which runs through all use areas, the group recommends designating a network of trails and developing a long-term vegetation management plan.
âThese are the two really critical things that have been put forward for the riparian corridor,â she said. Currently, although trails exist in the canyon, they are not officially designated. Creating a designated system would include an environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act and also allow access to grants and coordinated trail maintenance efforts. Designation of a trail system was a priority recommendation for all use areas identified by the MCCC.
For the hinterland area, the group also recommends increased monitoring efforts to collect data on use and impacts in these areas. In the center of the country, the group recommends improved and more consistent signage, the development of better management practices for issues such as erosion and invasive species, and monitoring of visitor use and impacts.
The frontcountry area is the most complex and used the most, Dohrenwend said. BLM traffic counters on the gravel road leading to Powerdam counted more than 57,000 cars using the road in 2020. Heavy use in this area requires more drastic management efforts. For this zone, the MCCC recommends obtaining an archaeological clearing and the designation of a network of trails, as in other zones; more important recommendations include establishing a trail from Potato Salad Hill to the dam, possible construction of a pedestrian bridge over the creek in the Powerdam area, and possible relocation of the main access from the Powerdam area to the Potato Salad Hill area. Powerhouse Lane could still be open to pedestrians and cyclists, as well as emergency personnel.
Dohrenwend recognized the need to enforce any new regulations and also noted that the mix of jurisdictions in the region means enforcement is difficult as well.
The MCCC also suggests that the BLM collect a user fee using an âiron guardâ system at the new Potato Salad Hill parking lot, with the option of obtaining an annual pass.
The MCCC’s recommendations will need to be further considered to determine which agency would be responsible for each change, and an additional public process will be required before any of these changes can be implemented.
The full document with the recommendations of the MCCC, as well as the analysis of the survey results, are available on the group’s website, https://moab84532.wixsite.com/mccc/about.