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COVID-19 Special Edition Glen Canyon National Recreation Area E-Newsletter – Message from the Superintendent

COVID-19 Special Edition Glen Canyon National Recreation Area E-Newsletter – Message from the Superintendent
April 16
14:42 2020

April 10, 2020 Volume 1, Issue 6 – SPECIAL EDITION

Dear Partners,

This is the typical time for delivering our newsletter which would highlight all the current events and public facing actions taking place at Glen Canyon and Rainbow Bridge. In light of current events our work has been altered and this mailing will reflect these changes.

As we all know, this pandemic is unprecedented. All of us have had to endure repercussions and many have faced significant hardships. Your public lands, specifically Glen Canyon and Rainbow Bridge, are no different and it has truly been a challenge to keep up with State, Federal, Tribal and local government emergency measures in response to this national crisis. With this letter I would like to provide a summary of actions we have taken as part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, before I do highlight our actions, I want to assure all our partners and neighbors that we are still committed to our common goals and everyone at the park looks forward to continuing our work together now and in the future.  Working together and helping each other, we will get through this.

Outdoor recreation such as is offered by Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is an enormous value to all of us during this COVID-19 crisis. Recreation in these open places, when practiced safely and within CDC established social distancing guidance, provides a respite from sheltering in place and an opportunity to strengthen both physical and mental fitness. Our primary objective in managing these public lands amidst this crisis is to maintain access. The inherent value of open space is more important now than ever and so it remains our number one goal. However, we cannot and will not sacrifice your safety, our visitors’ safety, our employees’ safety or the resource we are charged to protect in meeting this goal.

To this end we have been successful in maintaining management of our critical operations and accessibility to much of the 1.25M acres of the recreation area. Suspensions and closures have only been implemented when essential for visitor safety, employee safety, and resource protection. In short, if we are unable to manage access without ensuring our visitors, employees, and resources are safe, we have looked for mitigations. If mitigations are not available, then we have been forced to implement temporary closures. These kinds of decisions are never easy and are not taken lightly. Campgrounds, certain restroom facilities, and day-use areas are all examples of areas in the park that we have temporarily closed either because our employees couldn’t maintain them safely or because it didn’t offer the public the opportunity to readily practice social distancing standards.

We are working closely with our partners at the Utah Division of Natural Resources and other state officials on how to conduct our Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) programs on Lake Powell ramps in a way that is both safe and effective. Quagga mussels cause serious environmental and economic impacts and once introduced to any water body cannot be eradicated.

Because of that, the quagga mussel infestation of Lake Powell must be carefully contained so any vessel departing its waters does not transport mussels to other water bodies. We have many essential functions and containment of Quagga mussels is one of them. Due to the inability to safely conduct quagga mussel inspections and decontaminations while adhering to COVID-19 guidelines, Utah issued an order that required any boat that enters Lake Powell to wait out a mandatory 30-day dry time before entering any other bodies of water in Utah. This order allowed us to transition from an inspect and decontaminate operation (impossible to maintain safety standards) to a monitor and document operation where we could maintain CDC safety standards.

However, in consideration of spring weather, longer days, and increased visitation, Utah determined that a monitor and document operation would not be effective in stopping the unwanted spread of quagga mussels. At the request of the Governor of Utah (see attached), to protect employee and visitor health and safety and limit the risk of Quagga spread, all public boat ramps on Lake Powell were closed and vessels on the lake were required to depart by 5 p.m. on April 6. This temporary closure is due to the inability to conduct inspections and decontaminations for quagga mussels while also complying with CDC guidelines. I cannot emphasize more how important our containment efforts are to Utah, western states, and the commercial fishing commissions of the northwest; it’s a great example of how our local efforts are making a positive difference throughout the west.

This situation is difficult in so many ways, and to so many interests. We recognize that access to public lands and waters is even more critical in times like these for health and well-being. Our goal continues to be to provide as much access as is feasible to the spaces and places in Glen Canyon that we all love. To that end, we are in regular communication with our partners at the State of Utah and State of Arizona working to find alternatives that will allow some boater access to Lake Powell without compromising the health and resource values it represents. Today, I am optimistic that there is a way forward so please stay tuned for further announcements.

It is our intent to keep open other areas within the recreation area unless state or local authorities request or recommend closures to better meet their public safety guidelines. It is also our intent to continually evaluate and, when in concurrence with state or local authorities, re-open areas and operations when we can.

Many of our services which are provided by third-party commercial services have also been suspended. Our concession contractors have tried hard to maintain operations and have been selective when having to close. We continue to work with these contractors as well as our many small businesses (commercial use authorizations) to find ways for these business enterprises to continue, whenever feasible. Though we have found some services are still provided, many of our operators have had to temporarily suspend their services due to CDC guidelines mandating visitor and employee safety and resulting staffing restrictions.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is open. It has been a necessary difficulty to temporarily suspend any part of park operations. However, many opportunities are still available to enjoy the outdoors, so clearly needed at this time, while adhering closely to CDC guidelines for social distancing, and applicable health department orders. It is my hope that as each of us does our part to follow those guidelines, we can return to normal park operations sooner rather than later. This is a very fluid situation and we are providing regular updates on our website Glen Canyon National Recreation Area  and park social media.

We join with all our neighbors and everyone else who loves this park; be encouraged. This is an unprecedented and very difficult time for all of us. We all share the same objectives. Everyone wants to stay healthy, open all park resources as soon as feasible, return to the way of life that brought us to this magnificent landscape, while supporting the economy that provides our livelihoods. Working together we will get through this.

Sincerely,

Superintendent William Shott

COVID-19 Special Edition Glen Canyon National Recreation Area E-Newsletter – Message from the Superintendent - overview

Summary: COVID-19 Special Edition Glen Canyon National Recreation Area E-Newsletter – Message from the Superintendent

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