Arches National Park: Industrial Destruction

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In order to get a deeper understanding of how industrial tourism negatively impacted Arches National Park, we have to consider the physical damage that happened. The commercial impact of climbing equipment and compromised air quality will eventually have more serious implications for the overall Park experience for tourists. Although, the accessibility does give more people a fair chance to truly experience the outdoors and see it even if they are disabled. Ultimately, however, the depreciation of the national parks over time by people will destroy the natural scenery as whole. Moreover, scientific studies conducted have shown that there should be a major concern for how much traffic Arches National Park actually gets. As with all natural resources, with more foot traffic and social behavior, there is an added risk that should be accounted for.

In commercializing the Arches National Park, there have been various types of damage recorded. For example, since rock climbing is a major aspect of tourism, the equipment that people use has damaged the rock over time. This was so significant that the National Park Service (NPS "Arches National Park - Climbing") even had to record rules and restrictions for this. The NPS claims that “no new permanent climbing hardware may be installed in any fixed location” (NPS "Arches National Park - Climbing"). They also write that the “use of motorized power drills is prohibited” (NPS "Arches National Park - Climbing"). Despite these clear regulations, there is no one there to enforce it and make sure that people are not damaging the rock. The rangers on staff at the park could not possibly monitor all of the climbing walls there. As a result, years and years of abuse by climbers on the walls have caused much damage. This is the result of increased industrial tourism where tourists are specifically paying for the rock climbing experience and bringing their equipment. The equipment that they are bringing to the national park leaves dents, holes, in prints and generally erodes the already weathered area. By allowing easier accessibility to Arches National Park, it would only exacerbate the situation.

Damage has also come in the form of air pollution. Edward Abbey predicted that more cars and paved roads would result in a city like atmosphere because of the increased congestion (Abbey 47). One notable quality of city life is a worse air quality because of all the toxins and light pollution that is produced. It is every distinct of city environments that the stars are not visible. Indeed, what once used to be a serene and clear night sky for the Arches National Park is now a mere shadow of what it was. According to the National Park Service, “light pollution from nearby towns has become evident even in the last few years” (NPS “Arches National Park – Lightscape”). The increased industrial production of goods, towns, mills and such have tainted the air quality so that the stars are not as visible as they used to be. This is also because of the development of a paved road system for travelers within the Parkway. There are numerous commercial tours and shuttle buses available so that people can just drive through. While this may be more convenient for people, it is not in the best interest of the environment and air quality.

Arches National Park, as a geographic location, can only support so many vehicles and individuals at one time before it loses its natural integrity. The most important element of longevity for a National Park is to account for the carrying capacity, or “the level of visitor use that can be accommodated in parks and protected areas without diminishing the quality of the visitor experience to an unacceptable degree” (Lawson et al. 305). Ultimately, Arches National Park can only hold so many visitors until there is damage that is permanent. The results of the study indicated that in order to maintain the quality of the delicate arch, no more than 315 people can hike at one time; further, “the model suggests that a maximum of 720 vehicles can be allowed to enter the Park between the hours of 5:00 AM and 4:00 PM” (Lawson et al. 310). If this capacity were to be exceeded, then there would be a serious risk of damage to the delicate arch and other places such as but not limited to: pressure cracks, floor caving, air pollution for exhaust and general social behavior that goes awry. There is a serious concern that industrial tourism allows for easier accessibility but it also compromises the integrity of the land and threatens longevity. Consequently, industrial tourism should not be allowed to pave its way into Arches National Park.

While allowing more individuals to enjoy Arches National Park is a positive aspect of industrial tourism, the negative implications of park damage and a threat to longevity surely compromises the whole vision. As a valued national resource, Arches should not be subject to the urbanization that would come from the introduction of paved roads, power lines and commercial incentive. While the NPS has banned the use of power drills on climbing surfaces, there is no way to fully monitor the people and there is long term damage that is caused. There is also a problem of air pollution that is caused by the exhaust from cars. As more cars drive through the park, the light pollution hides the stars and this compromises the natural scenery of star gazing that Arches is famous for. Moreover, the preservation of the delicate arch rests on a specific carrying capacity that the park has. If this is exceeded, then there is intense risk for permanent damage. But, industrial tourism seeks to mainly make a profit from the natural resource, not preserve it. Consequently, commercializing Arches National Park should be avoided since it will threaten its longevity.

Works Cited

Abbey, Edward. “Polemic: Industrial Tourism & the National Parks.” Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968. 39-60.

National Park Service. "Arches National Park - Lightscape." U.S. National Park Service. NPS, n.d. 24 Oct. 2011, Accessed 23 Jan. 2019.

National Park Service. "Arches National Park - Climbing." U.S. National Park Service. N.p., n.d. 24 Oct. 2011, Accessed 23 Jan. 2019.

Lawson, Steven, Robert Manning, William Valliere, and Benjamin Wang. "Proactive monitoring and adaptive management of social carrying capacity in Arches National Park: an application of computer simulation modeling." Journal of Environmental Management, Vol.68, 2003, pp. 302-313. Print.