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Zion Scenic Drive Off-Limits to Cars

May 21, 2000

One of the great national park routes, the six-mile-long Zion Scenic Canyon Drive in Utah's Zion National Park, will be closed to private cars starting this week. It will be accessible only by a park shuttle bus, by foot and by bicycle. The change coincides with the opening of a sprawling new visitor center.

The drive past colorful sandstone and shale formations carved by the Virgin River became a victim of its own popularity, said park spokesman Denny Davies. Guidebooks have long warned visitors of heavy traffic on the road; Davies called it "gridlock." On an average day in peak season, March to October, about 2,000 to 3,000 cars compete for 460 parking spaces--double and triple parking along the way, he said.

Under the new system, which begins Tuesday, shuttle buses will leave the new visitor center at the park's south end and travel northward through the canyon, making eight stops along the way. The bus is free, and visitors can board and reboard at any point. Visitors can drive their own cars to the visitor center or take another shuttle, also free, from the town of Springdale, just outside the park boundaries. (Zion Lodge guests pick up a pass at the visitor center that allows them to drive to the lodge.)

Davies noted that the vehicle ban makes it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists to travel the scenic drive, which lacks a shoulder. Other park areas, outside the drive, remain accessible by car.

The new visitor center, about a mile from the old one, covers 2 1/2 acres with exhibits on the park, most of them outdoors. The total project, including purchase of the buses, cost $28.8 million, Davies said. Park information: telephone (435) 772-3256.

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