OUTDOORS & RECREATION

Zion National Park begins ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to repair historic campground

Apr 5, 2024, 7:49 PM

A fire pit at Zion National Park’s South Campground...

A fire pit at the South Campground at Zion National Park. The park’s fire restrictions expire Wednesday morning. (Colton Johnston, National Park Service)

(Colton Johnston, National Park Service)

SPRINGDALE, Washington County — Construction to repair and rehabilitate Zion National Park’s aging South Campground is now getting underway, park officials say.

Construction crews will work to repair existing bathrooms while building new ones. They will also improve the area’s campsites, sewer infrastructure and stormwater drainage, park officials say. The plan calls for new food storage boxes and modernized drinking water systems, as well.

A new structure will also be built for visitors to receive hiking, canyoneering and backpacking wilderness permits.

The campground was established in the 1920s, not long after Zion was designated a national park. But most of the project infrastructure that will be replaced or enhanced dates back to the 1960s. Park officials said the infrastructure had become “overwhelmed” in recent decades, especially as park visitation doubled from nearly 2.5 million visits annually in the early 2000s to nearly 5 million visitors over the past few years.

Park officials didn’t say when the project is expected to be completed or if will reduce access to the campground, but they said that the project will reduce the probability of flooding, increase accessibility and simplify future maintenance once it’s completed.

“Visitors to Zion will benefit for years from the hard work of the many expert park employees and skilled craftspeople who are rehabilitating one of our most popular and historic campgrounds,” said Zion National Park superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh, in a statement Friday.

Officials said they had wanted to improve the campground for a while, but the project had been deferred for years. However, they say they were able to collect “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” funding through a mixture of sources to finally get the project going.

A large chunk of the money comes from a restoration fund created through the Great American Outdoors Act Legacy that Congress approved in 2020. Documents show that $11.2 million from the fund was directed to Zion National Park to help pay for the project. The rest of the funding comes from disaster recovery appropriations and visitor entrance fee dollars, according to the park.

Zion National Parks approved fee changes at the campground that went into effect this year. The cost of nonelectric campsites at South Campground rose from $20 per night to $35, while a new $5 dump station fee for noncampers was also established.

Park officials are also considering big traffic configuration changes near Zion’s south entrance and Watchman Campground to address ongoing congestion issues at the popular park. Public comment on that project wraps up on Wednesday.

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Zion National Park begins ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to repair historic campground