Bureau of Land Management seeks public comment on development of the Calf Creek area in Escalante

With increasing popularity, the parking for Calf Creek Recreation Site has begun to spillover onto nearby SR-12 highway, Garfield County, Utah, May 23, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Calf Creek Recreation Area in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National monument has been identified as a potential project for development by the Bureau of Land Management Paria River District. Plans for the site include improvements to address safety and increased visitation as well as completing deferred maintenance.

The Lower Calf Creek Falls are accessible by trail from Calk Creek Recreation Site, Garfield County, Utah | Photo courtesy of Chad Douglas/Bureau of Land Management, St. George News

The proposed improvements were announced in a press release published on June 1. The BLM has invited members of the public to offer comments during the month of June. The comments will be closed on June 30 at 11:59 p.m.

Paria River District Public Affairs Specialist David Hercher told St. George News that the project will help public agencies and local governments continue to manage recreation in the monument, with an emphasis on addressing increased visitation.

“Demand for camping and hiking to Lower Calf Creek Falls far exceeds the campground and parking capacity through most of the visitation season,” Hercher said. “We have seen more trash and human waste, more crowding at popular locations, more driving off designated routes, and more primitive camping in locations not used before.”

The press release stated that proposed improvements to the recreation site include constructing new parking areas, expanding existing lots, modernizing the camping area, replacing the old bridge and bathrooms and installing telecommunications wiring.

A satellite view of Southern Utah, including a red pin indicating the location of the Calf Creek Recreation Site, Garfield County, Utah | Photo courtesy of Google Maps, St. George News

According to the ArcGIS StoryMap detailing the proposal, recreational facilities at the site were first installed in the 1960’s. Some of the site’s oldest structures – including the aging bridge – date back to the earliest days of the area’s development.

Limited parking has been a big concern for the site managers, Hercher said. The planned improvements would roughly triple the parking capacity for the area, while changes to the campsites and trails would provide visitors more privacy and space.

All told, the proposed developments for the Calf Creek project are projected to cost $1.4 million.

 “The completion of this deferred maintenance and capital improvement project should help improve customer service at Calf Creek for years to come,” Harry Barber, Paria River District Manager said. “We welcome public input in helping develop this project as we work through the planning process.”

All comments must be submitted on the BLM’s ePlanning website. The press release stated that commenters should be aware that their comments, including personal identifying information, may be made publicly available at any time. 

A landscape photo of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Garfield County, Utah | Photo courtesy of Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management, St. George News

Hercher said BLM officials are most interested in public comments containing first-hand knowledge of the area or new ideas related to addressing the site’s needs. 

Located in the Escalante Canyons Unit of the national monument, the Calf Creek area contains an oasis canyon sustained by the creek. The canyon is known for two large waterfalls as well as Native American ruins, life-size pictographs and wildlife, including beavers. 

“This site currently receives more than 35,000 visitors annually and is a popular public access point to public lands,” Hercher said.

Calf Creek Recreation Area is accessible via State Route 12 between Escalante and Boulder, Utah. Visitors are charged a day-use fee of $5 per vehicle. 

Campsites are available for $15 on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information about fees and area recreation, visit the BLM’s webpage for the area. 

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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