One of the most interesting activities to do while in the outdoors is to "people watch." There is something about being outdoors that changes the behavior of some individuals. Behavior that is considered unacceptable in most settings is somehow acceptable when outdoors. Strangely, the behavior goes mostly unnoticed by the general public.
On March 20-22, students in the visitor behavior class traveled to Zion National Park in southern Utah to witness visitor behavior first hand. There they met with park rangers to learn what is being done by the Park Service to deal with visitor behavior and manage 2.7 million visitors every year.
The visitor behavior class is taught by Scott Williams of the Physical Education and Recreation Department. The purpose of the class is to teach students how visitors behave in recreation settings and help them understand how agencies such as the National Park Service monitor and manage visitor behavior in order to protect the resources of the area.
During the first evening in camp, students observed visitors proudly carrying armfuls of tree limbs taken from a nearby hillside even though the gathering of firewood is strictly prohibited.
On the trail, students observed visitors ignoring warning signs and trail markers, thus putting themselves, others, and the environment at risk.
Discussions with park rangers at the visitor centers in Zion Canyon and nearby Kolob Canyon focused on how the Park Service has used facility design, a transportation system and backcountry permits to manage the large number of visitors that frequent the park every year.
One does not need to be a student in the visitor behavior class to go to Zion National Park. The park is located approximately 250 miles south of campus, northeast of St. George, Utah.
Whether it is a weekend or weeklong trip, there is plenty to do in Zion National Park. The Park is home to some of the most spectacular outdoor recreation activities in all of the Western United States, and visitors return year after year to experience all that makes Zion unique and wonderful.
Besides an incredible visitor center and a human history museum, visitors to the park enjoy dozens of developed trails that lead them from the Virgin River at the bottom of the canyon to amazing views up to 3000 feet above the canyon floor. Trails take them past waterfalls, pools, and hanging gardens of wildflowers. Some adventurous visitors bypass the trails and ascend the red and orange cliffs using ropes and harnesses.
Visitors who venture into the cool and shadowy slot canyons known as "the narrows" return with stories that never grow old.
Information about Zion National Park, including trail maps, explanations of fees, and weather information, can be found at online at http://www.nps.gov/zion