BDP staff on location at Zion National Park
by Mary Oliver
Over President’s Day weekend, the Bulldog Press took a road trip to Zion National Park, sponsored by PBS Newshour and the Student Reporting Labs. The staffers split up into teams, conquering five crucial aspects of the park that contribute to its age-old allure: park safety, flash floods, vandalism, the influx of visitors, and the notorious invasive species, cheatgrass.
We were accompanied by Adelyn Baxter, Su-Jen Roberts, and Rebecca Norlander from PBS. They guided our work, helping us to find the best angles. lighting, and interviews. Unfortunately, Mr. Sloan was not able to accompany us due to the death of his mother. In his stead, Coach Cordova lead the charge.
In addition to the Bulldog Press class, Alea Bristow and Nora Bonk joined the group. Alea studied the striking landscape, using her observations to create sketches and find more inspiration for her show-stopping art portfolio. Nora has a knack for photography, and she spent each evening after sundown taking long exposure photos of stars and the night sky. Below are the five stories the staff put together about the effects of people on the park.
Transportation - There's no easy answer
by Chloe Schafer and Katie Scott
In 2000, Zion National Park implemented a shuttle bus system due to the increase of visitation. The parks visitation is on the rise as it counted for over 4 million visitors in 2016.
The shuttle bus system is an efficient way to transport visitors throughout the narrow (eight mile) canyon without having mass amounts of traffic congestion, illegally parked cars, and pollution. The Zion busses are run on propane, having less of a negative impact on the resource, the park; this is a part of Zion’s sustainability project and green team initiative.
Gretchen Wise, a ranger from Zion National Park, stated that when the bus system was implemented, “We thought we would have about 30-35 years to grow into the shuttle system. In the course of 16 years we have already outgrown the visitor center and the shuttle system.” The increase in visitation to Zion National Park is still on the rise, according to Gretchen, “In January of 2017 we saw 20,000 more visitors to Zion National Park than we did in January 2016”. Now Zion’s visitor task force team is discussing ways to mitigate the visitation in order to continue the use of the shuttle system. But as Gretchen said there is “No easy answer, but in order to insure that everyone visits the park safely, and enjoys themselves, we know that something is going to have to be done.”
How safe should wild places be?
by Sean Hemmersmeier
One of our own staffers, Foster Dennin, was once in an encounter with flash floods. While hiking in the famous Zion Narrows, slot canyons that are simultaneously beautifully striking and threateningly dangerous, a flash flood ripped down the canyon. Luckily, Foster was able to find high ground before the flood hit, thanks to a warning from hikers upstream. However, a woman was swept up in the current, and it took the manpower of Foster and multiple other people he was with to jump into the water and drag her to safety. Thankfully, no one was fatally injured.
This experience is a testament to the unruly wild that we call “National Parks.” While exploring these beautiful pockets of wilderness, it’s easy to forget how truly wild these places really are.
Cheatgrass - The silent invader
by Sean Parent and Jackson Start
Strolling through Zion National Park, it’s hard to imagine that any part of the serene landscape should be considered out of place or foreign. However, a certain species of grass has managed to weasel its way into the landscape, blending in as if it belongs, when in reality it causes much more harm than good. The seed load on cheatgrass is very impressive because if it was planted ten years ago it will still be here even after that plant has died. Cheatgrass is not a native species to Zion National Park or to Utah. It most likely traveled in the form of seed pods, attached to some traveler when pioneers and settlers came to the Western U.S. for new opportunities. Now, the grass strangles the roots of other native species, as well as becoming “grassoline” for forest fires when it dies and dries.
This species and the presence of other invasive species is an important thing for visitors to the park to be aware of, although it’s something that most people overlook.
by Joey Mancini and Jack Boomer
Shaped by water and time, Zion National Park offers a beautiful landscape to all its visitors. However, with ever increasing visitation to the park, vandalism has become a huge problem as the NPS try to preserve this national treasure.
Over the years, vandalism, intentional and unintentional, has become an increasing problem in the park. Many times, people do not even realize they are vandalizing the natural landscape of the National Park. Something as innocent as walking off the trail can be detrimental to the naturalness of the park. Let me explain. If someone walks off the trail, others will follow. Soon another trail develops. This trail can cause major changes to the ecosystem that we do not notice at the time.