Project underway to save the orchards at Capitol Reef National Park

May 6, 2022, 10:49 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 5:21 pm

CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK, Utah — When it comes to backbreaking work, Robert Marc jokes he didn’t really have a choice.

“The Queen said we’re going to go plant some trees, and I always say yes,” Marc said.

His wife may have told him what he was doing on this day.

“And she’s always right,” he said with a laugh.

However, Marc says he would’ve been here anyway, digging in the tough soil, because he cares.

“Oh, absolutely. Absolutely,” he said. “And so do all of these other people.”

Most of the people digging in the dirt live just outside of Capitol Reef National Park. So, when they heard volunteers were needed to replant some of the orchards in the park, it was an easy decision.

“You got to name them so they’ll be loved,” said one woman with a laugh. “We know all their names.”

It’s a project that has been years in planning.

“The National Park Service’s mission is to preserve and protect our natural and cultural resources,” said Shauna Cotrell, acting chief of interpretation at Capitol Reef National Park.

There are plenty of natural resources to protect here.

Capitol Reef is well known for its rock formations. The orchards, 19 of them in the park, are part of the area’s culture being protected.

“From the variety of native peoples that have called this place home to the modern history in the Latter-day Saint pioneers and the orchards that they planted here,” Cotrell said.

In the past few decades, though, park workers estimate about a thousand trees have been lost because of age, disease, or poor soil conditions.

This project is to get the orchards healthy again.

Capitol Reef is the only National Park in Utah where visitors can buy the fruit from these trees.

The fruit pies sold at the park often sell out quickly.

That agricultural heritage is a big part of the park’s mission to protect, even though it’s a part of our heritage that’s slowly being lost in other places.

“We are becoming more and more of an urban society globally,” Cotrell said. “Having a place where people can come out and feel that connection allows folks to experience farming a rural lifestyle that many maybe aren’t able to anymore.”

It’ll take a few years before these new baby trees produce fruit.

For Marc, it’ll make them that much sweeter. Just like his wife.

“If others enjoy, that’s wonderful. But I’m planting them for me,” he said with a laugh.

For more information on the orchard history at Capitol Reef, click here.

For all the different fruit harvests, click here.

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Project underway to save the orchards at Capitol Reef National Park