National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
Partnership header Making music at the Ashville festival, Blue Ridge Parkway
Zion Canyon Shuttle Bus Transportation System

Description: In 1993, Zion National Park issued a conceptual plan that advocated a shuttle system to relieve the auto traffic congestion in the upper portion of Zion Canyon. Traffic congestion on local and regional roads was also impacting the gateway community of Springdale, Utah. Cars entering and exiting the park had to pass through the town's narrow main street. The community proposed extending the transportation system being developed by the Park Service into the town. The intent was to encourage visitors to leave their cars in Springdale and spend a little more time and money while they were there. The National Park Service, particularly the park's Superintendent Don Falvey, was receptive to the idea and began working in partnership with Springdale to develop an award-winning transportation system that serves both the park and community.

Newly-elected Mayor Phillip Bimstein and Superintendent Falvey assembled a 10-member committee to devise a transportation plan that would meet the needs of both the community and the park. The committee members represented a broad array of views and opinions, including those that were opposed to park involvement in Springfield's affairs. As the committee worked on the plan, the Zion Natural History Association and the Utah Department of Transportation pursued joint funding for the project.

On May 23, 2000, Zion National Park's Zion Canyon became car-free as it launched its environmentally friendly propane-powered shuttle system. The Zion Canyon shuttle system, which is operated and maintained by a contractor, operates daily from the beginning of April through the end of October. Shuttle service is provided along two loops: the town loop which stops at six locations in Springdale and the park loop which stops at eight locations within the park. Transfer between the loops is made at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. Use of the shuttles is free and visitors are able to embark and disembark as often as they wish. The use of parking facilities in Springdale helped reduce the number of required parking spaces at the visitor center by 50%.

Geographic area covered: Zion National Park and Springdale are located at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin and Mojave Desert provinces in the southwest corner of Utah. Springdale is a town of 450 residents and is located at the southern entrance to the park.

List of partners and relationships: Zion National Park, Town of Springdale, Zion Natural History Association, Utah Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, the local business community, Zion Canyon Visitors Bureau, and park concessioners.

Accomplishments to date: The new transportation system has helped improve the air quality and visitor experience of those coming to the park.

Since the shuttle opened, tax revenues for the town of Springdale have increased 22 percent. The National Park Service estimates that in its first year, the shuttle service eliminated 42,000 vehicle trips. And a park visitor survey indicates an 85% approval rate of the service.

The project, and the relationship that emerged between the park and the town, accompanied other cooperative activities such as water and sewer agreements and emergency responses.

Key success factors: The timing of the project and the personalities and collaborative relationship of Mayor Bimstein and Superintendent Falvey were crucial to success. The newly elected mayor's style and willingness to work with the park complemented that of Superintendent Falvey's interest in building a meaningful partnership with the community.

The recognition by both partners that the park's mission and the town's mission were similar. Both believed in the preservation and protection of the park's resources, and in providing public access to these resources. They never lost sight of their goal to preserve the heritage, culture and character of the community while providing a quality visitor experience.

Superintendent Falvey exemplified what a federal land manager should do. He, as well as his wife Carole, familiarized themselves with the local political and social setting, often hosting parties and events in their home. He facilitated the partnership by: taking risks, listening patiently and responding with empathy; and understanding the values of the community.

Frustrations: Only one. After several years of working positively with the park, communicating openly with the town and building trust and momentum towards the partnership, a few residents spread misinformation about the project just as the town was about to sign a deal. This situation was only temporary as partners met with residents in a single well-attended town meeting and corrected the misinformation.

Most important lessons learned to date:

  1. Building a good working relationship with community leaders starts with building a good personal relationship. You don't just build a partnership instantaneously. You have to have a relationship first. Both parties worked to create an atmosphere of openness.
  2. Long-term partnerships must benefit both the park and the community because one-sided partnerships quickly collapse.
  3. It is important that park employees be part of the social life of the town. Park employees participated in community activities such as the Halloween Haunted House, a sod party for the city park, and adopting a portion of the highway in town and picking up litter along it. During the government shutdown during a budget impasse in 1995, park employees volunteered to paint the gazebo in the town's park.
  4. The park must consistently communicate with their partner and continually seek the community's input. Offer park resources, technical assistance, time, staff and facilities.

What would you do differently next time: Since the partnership was so successful, there is nothing we would change.

Suggested resource materials: National Park Service Denver Service Center, Ed McMahon's "Balancing Nature and Commerce in Gateway Communities", and Daniel Kemmis' "Community and the Politics of Place."

For more information:

Name: Phillip Bimstein
Affiliation: Former Mayor, Town of Springdale
Phone/Fax: 435-772-3839/801-364-7716

Name: Don Falvey
Affiliation: Former Superintendent, Mt. Zion National Park
Phone/Fax: 435-326-4268

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising __; Capital Improvements _X_; Facility Management __; Trails __; Design _X_; Program Delivery __; Visitor Services _X_; Tenant Organizations __, Concessioners __; Natural Resources Management/Restoration _X_; Cultural Resources __; Education/Interpretation __; Arts __; Information Services __; Transportation _X_; Mutual Aid __; Fire Management __; Planning _X_; Tourism _X_; Community Relations _X_;

Other ____________________________

Prepared by: : Phillip Bimstein Date posted: 10/16/03
Phone: 435-772-3839

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