BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK — Rangers are asking visitors to refrain from removing survey markers placed near rare and sensitive vegetation for an upcoming fencing project at Bryce Canyon National Park after someone or a group of people recently removed a couple of dozen wooden spikes laid down in advance of the project.
Park officials posted about the incident on social media Monday. Peter Densmore, the park's spokesman, told KSL.com Tuesday that most of the project disruption happened in the Yovimpa Point area of the park. Pictures uploaded to social media showed many stakes removed and tossed into nearby brush.
It's unclear what the motive was behind individuals removing the stakes. He said the point of the post was to inform visitors why the stakes were there and why it was important that they aren't disturbed. That reason is a new fence to address problems with visitation to the park.
The park's popularity over the years has led to some issues with the "small and vulnerable" plants that grow on the park's famous rocks because not every visitor has stayed on the trails, Densmore said. Once compacted, the soil can be too hard for trees and vegetation to grow.
"(The plants have been) heavily impacted by foot traffic off of these trails, compacting the soil and creating an inhospitable environment for these sensitive plants," he said. "They're very small (species) that grow in this environment and so they're easily overlooked and easily damaged, certainly as people leave the trail and compact this sediment."
In response, the park's resource division proposed installing wooden fences in the areas most impacted by the damage, areas such as Sunrise Point, Sunset Point and Yovimpa Point. Park employees did fieldwork to determine where the fence posts should be and placed the wooden stakes down in those areas.
The point of it is to create a barrier that allows people to experience the same views but also stay on the trail and help plant restoration in the affected places. Removing stakes can lead to project delays and increase the overall cost of the project, park officials said.
Densmore said members of the Utah Conservation Corps are set to arrive at the park next week to begin construction of the project, driving in the fence posts and installing the new fences. The stakes will be replaced by members of the corps with help from park officials just to make sure they are in the right location and remain spread out evenly.
He added that it's important for visitors to stay on trails and to not hop the fences after they are installed because of the damage it can do to the plants near the trails.
"People can help us to preserve and protect the environment these plants are growing in and certainly create a more aesthetically appealing environment, too," he said. "The primary goal is to protect vegetation, and in some areas, wandering off trail there are other dangers that are possible — cliff edges or wildlife that is in the vegetation."
Densmore said any visitors who are curious about projects they see underway, or spot something that might seem different or out of place, to ask park rangers about it or contact the park through social media.