Zion National Park officials seek public comment on new rules for bikes and masks

ST. GEORGE — Zion National Park is considering new rules for bicyclists and e-bike users, as well as stronger language indicating a bridge popular as a photo spot is closed to pedestrians. 

Undated stock photo of bikers on the scenic drive in Zion National Park, Utah | Photo by
photosbyjim/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Park officials are also aiming to codify rules that make masks required regardless of vaccination status, including in most outdoor areas where physical distancing is not possible. 

The park has opened up a public comment period  through a week from Friday for people to voice their opinion on the proposed changes to the rules, known as the “Superintendent’s Compendium” that can be found in this document

“The regulations … are the basic mechanism used by the NPS to preserve and protect the natural and cultural resources of the park as well as to protect visitors and property within the park,” a statement from park officials said. 

The new rules define the types of e-bikes allowed and also say that any bike, whether solely pedal-powered or not, are required to have a “bell to alert other visitors and wildlife of their presence and approach.”

It also establishes a new traffic rule within the park that all cyclists must yield to shuttle buses, including pulling to the side if the busses share the same lane of travel. 

The only e-bikes that will be permitted are Class 1 e-bikes that are equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches speeds of 20 miles per hour. However, there will be an exemption for e-bikes used by law enforcement.

Cyclists that ride in groups are proposed to be limited on park roads to no more than six within a group, and groups have to be separated by a quarter mile and ride in single-file. 

As for the park’s trails, the Pa’rus Trail will be the only one where bicycles are permitted, and all types of bikes would be limited to a 15 mph speed limit on the trail.  

Popular photo spot off limits?

Undated stock photo with a view of the Watchman and the Narrows trail seen from the Canyon Junction Bridge in Zion National Park, Utah | Photo by
yhelfman/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

The Canyon Junction Bridge is known to be a popular spot for people to take a picture of the scenery of Zion National Park, especially to get a view of the peak known as the Watchman. 

However, the park wants to make it more clear that pedestrians are not allowed on the bridge under any circumstances. 

“Canyon Junction Bridge is closed to pedestrians,” the proposed rule reads. 

Technically, it was already against park rules for people to stand, stop, walk, run or take photographs outside a vehicle. The new rule uses more precise language that pedestrians are not allowed.

Pedestrians could still go on Pa’rus Trail just under the bridge to get the same view. They can also get off at the Canyon Junction shuttle stop and go onto the trail from there. 

Mask rules put into writing

The proposed Superintendent’s Compendium changes for the first time codifies measures to prevent COVID-19 through the use of face coverings. 

The proposed language says that all individuals over the age of two, regardless of vaccination status or local community transmission levels, must wear masks in the indoor buildings of the park.

The compendium also says masks must be also worn in the following outdoor areas when other are present and physical distancing isn’t possible or someone is actively drinking or eating: 

  • Shuttle queue lines.
  • Shuttle buses.  
  • Commercial passenger vehicles.
  • Lodge trams.
  • Lodge plaza.
  • All open-air pavilions
  • The Visitor Center plaza.
  • Kolob Canyons Contact Station plaza.
  • Interpretive talks, tours and artisan demonstrations.
  • All public restrooms.
  • The Amphitheater.
  • Trails and at overlooks when six feet distancing cannot be maintained between respective parties.
Large lines of people await the shuttles inside Utah’s Zion National Park. June 3, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The park had already established temporary rules to this effect, though the new rules put it into a more permanent, written basis until the pandemic comes to an end – Something that does not appear as much on the horizon with the delta variant as it did before the start of the summer.  

This has caused issues, especially on the Zion Canyon Shuttle where contracted workers on the shuttle have resigned after harassment from park visitors over having to wear a mask.  

Comment period open

Those seeking to make a public comment on the proposed rules can do so at this link through Sept. 10.

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

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