As the city of Page and National Park Service continue to test the waters of their recently developed partnership over Horseshoe Bend, a new proposal from NPS leaders has city council seeing dollar signs.
In a special meeting last Wednesday, Glen Canyon Recreational Area Supervisor Billy Shot proposed to council a plan to fast track the construction of a fee booth (or booths) at the Horseshoe Bend parking lot. At the booth, visitors in private vehicles would be given an option to purchase a two-day pass for $10. Currently, the only passes available for Glen Canyon tourists who do not have a parks pass or other similar document is a $25 one-week pass or a yearlong pass for $50. Because Horseshoe Bend is part of the GCRA, it is an area where NPS can legally solicit fee collection, despite never having done so in the past.
The $10 two-day pass would have to be approved through higher-ups within the National Park Service at Washington D.C., a Glen Canyon representative told council. However, she noted that initial talks led her to believe federal approval would be likely.
Park service has recently speculated that many Page-bound travelers who visit Horseshoe Bend do not often visit any other site within the park’s boundaries, and estimates from 2016 place the number of unique individual visitors to the world-famous site at around one million per calendar year.
She explained at the meeting that if the new fee structure is approved through Washington, 20 percent of the $10 pass would have to automatically be deducted from revenue for either entity. This is due to an NPS regulation that requires all fees collected at any park that charges them must set aside at least 20 percent from all collections to help prop up other nationals parks which do not solicit visitor fees.
Shott proposed the city could fast track the construction of fee booths, and then lease them to Park Service for free to begin collecting as early as Spring 2018.
Because the parking lot is still on city-owned land, NPS cannot legally set up or solicit a fee collection station without leasing the land or building from its owner.
Because the proposed two-day pass would be part of the park’s entire fee structure, it would be available at any gateway into GRCA, including the booths at Wahweap and Antelope Point marinas.
Early discussions were nebulous as to how GRCA and the city would split the remaining $8 of the new fee. But the representative speculated if the city earned around $3 to $4 per vehicle, it could easily cover the costs of maintenance for restrooms and the parking lot.
The remainder could be banked to almost entirely fund the construction of a massive infrastructure upgrade project at the site that would include a new trail, bathrooms, visitor center and viewing platform.
That number could be reached in as little as two years if current trends continue, she added.
Other fee proposals were given as well, but council and NPS leadership were most enthused about the $10 two-day pass option, saying it was simple, fair to visitors and could potentially increase overall traffic to Lake Powell and other areas of the GRCA.
“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” said councilman Mike Bryan. “One of the biggest complaints I hear from tourists here is that they don’t want to pay so much money for a seven day pass when they’re only going to be here for a day or two. This [fee structure] is a great option for them.”
Councilors agreed that the other options, which included charging a parking pass through the city or trying to charge per head as opposed to per vehicle would muddy up the process and cause discontent among visitors.
The Future of
Page and NPS entered into an official contracted agreement in 2016 wherein the two entities agreed to split costs on massive overhaul projects for the Horseshoe Bend parking lot, trail and viewing area. Recently, the city has funded the construction of increased restrooms and a parking lot expansion to ease the influx of tourism to the location.
For the new fiscal year, which began July 1, city leadership budgeted $500,000 to go toward continued upgrades and maintaining the heavily used restrooms, which require constant pumping. The total cost for all proposed projects over the next several years is upwards of $2.3 million on the city’s side.
The biggest caveat in the grand scheme of it all is Page’s ownership of the parking lot and roughly half of the trail leading to the overview. Discussions about the city selling, leasing or trading its portion of land at Horseshoe Bend have been brought up without significant support from council, but are still on the table as discussions continue.
Councilor Dennis “Dugan” Warner and Mayor Bill Diak have been the most vocally opposed to the city relinquishing its ownership.
Diak has called Horseshoe Bend Page’s prime attraction, and has gone on record stating that he believes “we’d be selling our soul by giving up that land.”
Warner lamented how the city already owns a significant amount of land along Highway 89 that has never been developed and likely won’t be developed in the near future. He argued that as active participants and stewards of Horseshoe Bend, the city could have greater say in its future.
Shott told the council that Park Service sees the new fee-sharing proposal as “short-term” for the time being, but said the agency was open to continuing it long-term as well as looking at other options as infrastructure is improved at Horseshoe Bend.