After a pilot run in 2022 when a timed entry system was launched, Arches National Park in Utah in United States is set to implement an updated version of the timed entry system for the coming year as well. Park officials say that the new system would have some flexibilities for visitors but that the measure was necessary to protect the flora and fauna in the park.
Located on the Colorado River near Moab in Utah, Arches National Park is a desert area of red sandstone formations that have been eroded over the centuries into a variety of unusual shapes, including pinnacles, windows, and arches. It is spread over 310 sqkm and was established as a national monument in 1929 and a National Park in 1971.
As it is a very popular touristic site in the United States, the Park officials say that the Park will implement an updated timed entry system pilot in 2023. Based on feedback received from the public, stakeholders, and local community members, visitors to Arches in 2023 will have additional flexibilities to enter the park, including the ability to purchase entrance fees or annual passes in advance and to access the park without a reservation during extended hours.
“During the 2022 pilot at Arches, timed entry tickets helped pace visitation into the park, lessen congestion, and enhance visitor experiences. This year, Arches will use another timed entry pilot to test operational improvements, which should provide more opportunities for access while protecting Arches’ extraordinary landscape,” says Arches National Park Superintendent Patricia Trap.
From April 1 to October 31, 2023, visitors will need to secure a timed entry reservation in advance to enter the park between 7 am and 4 pm. Visitors can book reservations on a first-come first-served basis on the park website beginning at 8 am MST on January 10, 2023.
The Park officials say that reservations will be released three months in advance in monthly blocks. For example, on January 10, reservations will open for April 1 through April 30. On February 1, reservations will open for the month of May and any remaining reservations that have not been booked for April. Additional months will continue the same pattern.
After booking a reservation, visitors will receive a timed entry ticket. Timed entry tickets will be required to enter the park from 7 am to 4 pm daily and will allow visitors to enter during a one-hour specified window of availability. After entering, visitors may stay in the park for the remainder of the day. Ticket holders may exit and re-enter the park on the same day with a correctly validated ticket. The only cost associated with booking a reservation is a USD 2 processing fee.
For those without early reservations, a limited number of additional tickets will be available starting at 6 pm on the day before entry through the same website. Tickets must be booked online or by calling before entering the park and will not be available at the park entrance. Timed entry tickets will not be required for those with camping permits, backcountry permits, Fiery Furnace permits, special use permits, concessions contracts, or commercial use
Authorisations, say the park officials in a statement, adding that as ticket availability may run out quickly, so visitors are encouraged to plan ahead.
Between 2011 and 2021, visitation to Arches National Park grew over 73 pc, from just over 1 million to over 1.8 million visitors per year. This increase in visitor use creates congestion and crowding that can negatively impact public safety, visitor experiences, and park resources, they say. During times of peak congestion, the park has had to temporarily close its gates until crowding has lessened. With timed entry, however, temporary closures are not typically required.
Managed access systems like timed entry help distribute visitation throughout the day and season to provide reliable access while protecting the park. After the conclusion of the 2022 timed entry pilot, Arches staff reviewed comments from members of the public, stakeholders, and elected officials. Using the feedback received, the NPS determined that implementing a pilot for a second year could continue to reduce congestion as the park begins a longer-term public planning process to consider alternatives for the best ways to manage high visitation while protecting the park and improving safety. This planning effort will consider a variety of congestion management strategies in addition to timed entry and will engage the public and local community throughout the process, it says in the statement.