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Infrastructure improvements proposed for Calf Creek

(Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

GARFIELD COUNTY, Utah – The Bureau of Land Management is proposing a plan to expand the parking lot or create a new overflow lot at the Calf Creek Recreational Site within the Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument. 

Garfield County officials said visitation to Calf Creek has been increasing for the last ten years, but exploded in popularity after President Trump changed the boundaries of the monument and loosened restrictions on how many people allowed there. However, the larger crowds are making parking a serious problem. 

County Commissioner Jerry Taylor reported people leaving their cars all along Highway 12, which isn’t safe for drivers or pedestrians.

(This photo shows vehicles parked or traveling through state Route 12 at the entrance to Calf Creek Recreation Area in 2020. Photo: Bureau of Land Management)

Taylor said, “When you drive by, you can’t find a place to park.  [Cars are] parked right there on the road.”

Along with an improved parking lot, BLM’s proposed plan would increase the number of camping units, replace older buildings like bathrooms and fee stations and provide more shade shelters. 

Taylor believes the commission is fully on board.

“We want to do whatever we can to protect the public so they can still have an enjoyable time when they come to Garfield County,” he said.

Commission Chair Leland Pollock said what they don’t want is a return to the previous restrictions. He believes the county is finally able to promote visitations to the national monument, which is proving to be very beneficial.

“We have been aggressively promoting, Garfield County has through our tourism office, the Grand Staircase, and the tourism is what it should be,” Pollock said.

Federal officials said they want to enhance the visitor experience at the site, but they’re concerned it’s becoming a victim of its own popularity. 

However, Pollock said the previous restrictions were too stringent.“If a national monument is created, it should be created so people can come to visit it,” he said.