Mill Creek Solutions: Community Stakeholder Group Recommends Management of Popular Recreation Area | News

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The Moab City Council and Greater County Commission hosted a joint workshop on June 22 just before the regular meeting of the city council to hear a presentation by 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 Mill Creek planning and restoration efforts since the 1990s. addressed the council and commission on behalf of a group of about 40 people representing 17 agencies and organizations as well as private landowners who have been participating since 2018 in a more formal stakeholder group, the Mill Creek Community Collaborative. The group has completed a document detailing a set of specific recommendations for new area management strategies that address parking, access, trails, signs and possible fees.

Need for management

“You all know how things have changed in Moab, you know how many more people are here, how crowded it is,” 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 population also leads to an increase in the frequency of search and rescue or medical situations. emergency. Emergency responder teams carrying supplies and sometimes patients can cause even more damage to these natural resources.

Stakeholders observing this increased use have sought to address it for years. In the 1990s, Dohrenwend said, surveys showed that many locals favored a “keep it secret” approach to protecting Mill Creek Canyon. The hotels agreed not to carry literature promoting the canyon, and the BLM 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 replaced other methods of sharing and promoting information, necessitating 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 ‘not telling anyone’ doesn’t work anymore,” Dohrenwend said, summarizing the mainstream opinion reported by the surveys.

To guide its discussions on how best to manage the beloved area, MCCC has developed a vision statement, defining its mission as follows:

“Collaboratively address the impacts of increased recreational use in 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 resolves impacts to nearby neighborhoods.”

Dohrenwend summed up the group’s goal by saying, “The real crux was the need to really address the impacts on the natural world.

The group also collected community feedback through surveys, seeking to gauge what users value most about Mill Creek and the 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 different agencies and individuals, including the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, the Bureau of Land Management, City of Moab and Grand County. Dohrenwend reminded meeting participants that a new subdivision has been approved for the open area along either side of Powerhouse Lane leading to the Powerdam parking area which will add more stakeholders as well as congestion addition to the already heavily used access point.

MCCC has also identified four distinct use areas along the Mill Creek Corridor. The “Urban Creek” area runs through the city, where the city’s Mill Creek Parkway follows the creek and is heavily used for transportation through the city. The MCCC did not address this area with recommendations, but focused on what it referred to as the foreland, midcountry and hinterland areas in the Powerdam area. . The foreland encompasses the Powerdam parking area to the waterfall; mid-country refers to the walking path on the south rim of the canyon popular with locals, near residential areas; and the backcountry encompasses much of the canyon’s right fork and left hand beyond the waterfall.

Dohrenwend said that for the riparian corridor, which winds through all use areas, the group recommends designating a network of trails and developing a long-term vegetation management plan.

“Those are the two really essential things that have been put forward for the riverside corridor,” she said. Currently, although trails exist in the canyon, they are not officially designated. Creating a designated system would include environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act and also provide access to grants and coordinated trail maintenance efforts. The designation of a trail network was a priority recommendation for all use areas identified by 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 best management practices for issues such as erosion and invasive species, and monitoring of visitor use and impacts.

The foreland area is the most complex and heavily used, Dohrenwend said. BLM traffic counters on the gravel road to Powerdam counted over 57,000 cars using the road in 2020. High usage in this area requires more drastic management efforts. For this area, the MCCC recommends obtaining archaeological clearance and designating a network of trails, as in the other areas; larger recommendations include establishing a footpath from Potato Salad Hill to the dam, possibly constructing a pedestrian bridge across the creek in the Powerdam area and possibly relocating 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 acknowledged the need to enforce any new regulations and also noted that the mix of jurisdictions in the region means enforcement is also difficult.

The MCCC also suggests that the BLM collect user fees using an “iron ranger” system in the new Potato Salad Hill parking lot, with the option of an annual pass.

MCCC’s recommendations will need to be reviewed further to determine which agency would be responsible for each change, and additional public process will be required before any of these changes can be implemented.

The full document with the MCCC’s recommendations, as well as the analysis of the survey results, can be viewed on the group’s website, https://moab84532.wixsite.com/mccc/about.

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