In the past few years, Horseshoe Bend has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Horseshoe Bend now attracts about 1.5 million visitors a year, many of whom struggle to find parking and struggle as they walk to and from the overlook.
Last Thursday, officials with the City of Page, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Coconino County District Supervisor’s Office and Glen Canyon Natural History Association held a groundbreaking ceremony marking several new improvements that will occur to the site over the next year.
Among those in attendance was Page Mayor Bill Diak who told the assembled crowd that it was about six years ago that the city of Page began to notice a marked increase in visitor visitation to Horseshoe Bend and started making some preliminary plans for its future.
“This is a project many years in development to actually get a shovel in the ground,” he said. ”There’s been a lot of pen to paper to get where we’re at today.”
Several upgrades and changes will occur to the site between now and completion of the project. The first thing future visitors will find will be a monument sign at its entrance.
They’ll next find more parking and a parking lot that’s easier to navigate. Eventually the parking lot may have as many as 170 parking spaces and 10 bus parking spaces.
Next, visitors will find the trail no longer goes over the hill as it does currently, but will go around it instead, which they believe will lessen heat and fatigue-related emergencies. The new trail will also comply with guidelines with the American with Disabilities Act. Two shade structures will be added along the trail. The main viewing area will include safety railing.
The Horseshoe Bend upgrade is the culmination of a collaborative planning effort by the city of Page and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Part of the reason for the collaboration between the two government entities is because some of the land belongs to the city and some to the National Park Service.
The area where the parking lot and bathrooms sit are on the city side of the boundary, and the area where tourists gather to take in the breathtaking views at the edge of the overlook belongs to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
“One of the funnest things to do is to do something that people say can’t be done,” said Billy Shot, superintendent for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, at the groundbreaking ceremony.
Martin Stamat, executive director for the NHA, said the pending improvements to the site will be very beneficial for its long-term preservation and enjoyment.
“By making the overlook more accessible not only will more people from all backgrounds be able to visit it, they’ll be able to do it with increased safety,” he said, “And having better trails and facilities will also help preserve it into the future.”
Pending future funding, the site may see a second phase of improvements, which will include a visitor contact station, expanded restrooms and seating and an expanded parking lot.
Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas Guest Donation Program in collaboration with the Glen Canyon Natural History Association provided $125,000 and the city of Page provided $116,000 for the project’s planning and design. Construction costs will come from the city of Page ($500,000), Glen Canyon National Recreation Area ($500,000) from visitor entrance fees, Arizona Parks and Trails ($50,000) and Coconino County ($10,000).