(KCPW News) Utah’s oldest national park turns 100 this month. But the iconic Zion National Park faces several challenges. David Nimkin with the National Parks Conservation Association says parks like Zion are protected because they’re recognized as being more than just pretty scenery.
“It’s being a place that is recognized as having extraordinary natural and sort of biological functions, cultural amenities and something that in infinite wisdom has been set aside so it can be enjoyed by visitors in subsequent generations,” Nimkin says.
But one of the biggest challenges facing Zion is the number of people who come to the park. Nimkin says providing amenities and infrastructure to support the nearly three million visitors who come to Zion each year takes significant resources.
National parks in Utah also face political challenges from lawmakers who bristle at the large proportion of public lands here they see as cutting into the rural property tax base. But Nimkin says national parks stimulate more economic benefits than many realize. He says every dollar invested in Zion National Park yields more than $10 dollars in returns in the form of sales tax and property value increases.
“There’s over $100 million in revenue generated from Zion National Park,” Nimkin says. “Over 2,000 jobs are directly attributable to the numbers of people that come to visit these places.”
Nimkin says other challenges facing the park are light pollution from growing nearby communities and air quality issues from coal fired power plants. Zion is the oldest of five national parks in Utah. There are 58 National Parks in total.