An effort by San Juan County and the State of Utah to re-open part of Canyonlands National Park to motor vehicles has failed. The former jeep trail up Salt Creek from Peekaboo Spring, closed in 1998, is off the map now forever. Late Friday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the absurd claim that the dead-end creek bed trail was a public “highway” as defined by the 148-year-old Revised Statute 2477 (which Congress repealed in 1976).
Back in 1995, the National Park Service proposed establishing a permit system and a daily limit on the number of vehicles driving the 8 miles to Angel Arch. But the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance obtained a court injunction that closed the motorized trail. In 2004, the Park Service decided to make the closure permanent. Thus began the 10-year court battle that ended last Friday.
While the lawyers argued and the judges deliberated, natural flooding has rendered the area impassable to vehicles.
I’ll probably won’t backpack up Salt Creek, but I’m going to rejoice because that opportunity will be there for others to enjoy in their lifetimes. Oh, and let’s all wish Canyonlands National Park a happy 50th birthday.
“We have agreed not to drive our automobiles into cathedrals, concert halls, art museums, legislative assemblies, private bedrooms and the other sanctums of our culture; we should treat our national parks with the same deference, for they, too, are holy places. An increasingly pagan and hedonistic people (thank God!), we are learning finally that the forests and mountains and desert canyons are holier than our churches. Therefore let us behave accordingly.”
–Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire