AMERICAN FORK — It's been 20 years since the Timpanogos Cave visitor's center burned down. The Park Service has been using a modular building ever since, but now final ideas are being considered.
One involves changing around parking, there's talk of a shuttle system and even building a new visitors center at the mouth of the canyon, all to accommodate the interest people have in seeing one of Utah's natural treasures.
Every day, Timpanogos Cave attracts hundreds of people. On Tuesday, lifelong Utah resident Ty Weston finally made the trip himself.
"The hike was longer than I thought, getting up to the top, but the caves were awesome. Beautiful," Weston said.
But the trailhead, where tickets are sold, history is presented and people can refill their water bottles, is getting old and tired. A fire in the winter of 1991 destroyed the visitor's center, which was replaced by what was planned to be a temporary structure.
"Every once in a while you'll see the high rocks come down and hit one of these low embankments and bounce out and strike the building," said Timpanogos Cave Superintendent Jim Ireland. "We've had some come through the roof."
Safety is the primary driver in the proposed improvements. One is moving the building out of the path of frequent falling rock. Another involves parking.
Every once in a while you'll see the high rocks come down and hit one of these low embankments and bounce out and strike the building. We've had some come through the roof.
"Basically we'd put all of the parking on one side of the highway, the same side where the highway, the building and trailhead is, so we can get rid of the pedestrians crossing the road," Ireland said.
It's all part of an extensive study, as the National Park Service looks to the future.
"The other thing we found, and it surprised me, is that we only average three people per car visiting the park," Ireland said. "So every car in the lot only represents 3 folks and that car is generally here three-and-a-half to four hours at least."
There's is also a proposal for a shuttle bus from the mouth of the canyon to the cave, but that could add $10 more to every ticket. Regardless of the final decision, improvements here are still years away.
"Knowing the overall picture of the economy and the budget and our planning process, I suspect we're in this building for the next few years at least, but I'm hopeful that within 5-10 years we'll see some big improvements here," Ireland said.
A public open house on the proposals is set for the evening of July 2 at the trailhead. Also new this year is the reservation system to get tickets to tour the cave. You can purchase them in advance and this is really recommended if you plan to visit the cave, especially on weekends and holidays.