The Fern and J.L. Crawford Lecture Series 2015

2015 marks the ninth year of the Fern and J. L. Crawford Lecture Series. Created by ZCFI Director Michael Plyler in 2005, the lecture series mission is to present topics and perspectives not specifically limited to the Colorado Plateau.

August 26 – Dr. Alfred Runte presents “The Enduring Legacy of our National Parks”.

September 18 – has Dr. John Peterson presenting “Brigham’s Bastion: Winsor Castle at Pipe Spring and Its Place on the Mormon Frontier.”

October 16 – another silent film, “The Vanishing American” with live musical accompaniment by members of Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra and a pre-film lecture once again by Jeff Crouse.

November Plein Air lectures will include:

  • James Aton presenting – The Art and Life of Jimmie Jones on Tuesday, November 3;
  • Zion Canyon Artist in Residence – Earnest Ward: art journalist, Fort Worth TX on Wednesday, November 4;
  • Kate Starling, sharing Plein Air Painting: A Personal Approach on Thursday, November 5;
  • Michael Plyler sharing In Search of Thomas Moran on Friday, November 6.

August, September and October lectures will be held at Canyon Community Center in Springdale, Utah at 7:00 p.m.

Plein Air Evening lectures held at 7:00 pm in the Zion Lodge Auditorium. Friday’s Plein Air lecture will be held on the Zion Human History Museum at 11:00 am.

As more lecturers and dates firm up we will make changes to this posting so that you may make plans to join us for an interesting evening lecture. 

For more information about the Fern and J.L. Crawford Lecture Series, please call 435-772-3264 or go to

 Photo by Tif Hafen: James Swenson, BYU Professor of Art History lectures during the Plein Air event at Zion Lodge.

Find Your Park

I remember our family driving through Zion National Park when I was very young. Dad would have been behind the wheel of our turquoise Ford Fairlane. Mom in the front seat with him. And my little sister and I would have been up on our knees (in the days before seat belts), wide-eyed, in the back seat taking it all it. As we passed through Springdale I remember watching the buildings pass by, the houses, the motels, the curio shops and the service stations. And I remember the feel of my father’s fingers under my chin as he reached his arm back over the seat and lifted my point of view from ground level up and up to the towering sandstone ledges of the canyon and even further up to where the high horizon broke against the purple sky. Along that stark skyline I saw for the first time the turrets, towers and spires of those magnificent castles in the clouds.

Even today, a half-century later, I still feel my little-boy heart swelling in my chest.

“Whose place is this?” I asked my dad as we drove up the switchbacks in the canyon.

“It’s yours and its mine,” he answered. “It belongs to every American.”

Though I didn’t understand it then, that was my introduction to the concept of public space. To the idea of parks set aside for the benefit of all. I took that concept for granted for much of my life.

As a kid, you had no idea of the financing, the politics or the foresight that went into preserving and maintaining that special place like Zion Canyon.

It was just there. Yours for the taking. A kind of birthright.

Perhaps when it finally hit home for me was the day I rode an elevator to the top of the Empire State Building in New York City. From the viewing deck near the top of that amazing building, I looked up and down Manhattan Island and saw perhaps the greatest concentration of human activity on earth. I was overwhelmed by the mass of humanity in such tight quarters. And then my eyes settled on the giant rectangle of green in the middle of that island – Central Park. A sigh escaped from deep inside me as I considered the beauty and tranquility of that awesome open space smack in the middle of such a gray and dense metropolis.

I smiled at the thought of the foresight of whoever it was who proposed such a place, and winced at the thought of how hard it must have been to pull off such a feat. Somewhere along the way, someone, or a group of someones, had to stick their necks out, risk their reputations, and fight the battles, to make sure someday, when that island was completely covered with multi-storied buildings, there would still remain an open section of land in the middle of it — a park — that would heighten the quality of life and contribute to the sanity of everyone who lived or worked in the city.

What a concept.

Here in southern Utah we’re blessed that so many of our civic leaders have understood this concept over the years. They’ve been willing to stick their necks out, put their reputations on the line, and fight for the kinds of parks and open space we enjoy today. From the old City Park on Fourth East, in St. George, to Zion National Park, we are the beneficiaries of dozens of public spaces in our area, including municipal, state and national parks. From ballfields to hiking parks, from desert reserves to petroglyph sites. From pickle ball courts to horseshoe pits to river walks and picnic spots. From Zion to Parashant to Pipe Spring and Cedar Breaks. From Snow Canyon to Sand Hollow to the trail heads in Pine Valley. You’d be hard pressed to find a greater or more diverse number of developed, maintained and well managed parks and open spaces anywhere on earth.

In fact, the whole world is coming here to experience the public places in our backyard. Since Presidents’ Day Weekend this year, Zion National Park has been flooded by visitors. On any given day in March and April, the visitor traffic in Springdale and Zion Canyon was nonstop from daylight until well after dark. For years the state and the county have been promoting St. George and Zion as a destination and this spring it appeared as if the world got the message.

For those of us who live here, it’s getting a little more difficult all the time to share our backyard with the world. Yet we depend dearly on those visitors to fuel our economy and make it possible for us to live here.

So how do we share it without losing the quality of life we treasure? The French writer Marcel Proust might have answered that question when he said, “The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Perhaps the answer is for those of us who live here to seek out and experience the other wonderful public places in our midst besides the icons the world is coming to see. One of the best kept secrets, little more than an hour from St. George, is Pipe Spring National Monument. If you’ve never been there, it’s high time you go. You’re almost guaranteed a parking spot. And you’ll enjoy a renewal of spirit in that unique setting. Same with Cedar Breaks. It’s not much more than an hour-and-half from St. George. I can’t imagine a better summer day-trip. Just like that you’re at 10,000 feet, looking down into one of the most impressive gorges on Earth – not to mention the energizing quality of the pine-scented air.

The list goes on. In 2016, the National Park Service will celebrate its Centennial. The theme for that celebration will be: “Find Your Park.” You might think of the iconic national park closest to you as your park, yet there are countless wonderful public spaces in our midst that we can and should connect with. The secret is to look about us with new eyes.

By Lyman Hafen, Executive Director

National Park Service Centennial Campaign & Middle Emerald Pools Trail Fundraiser

The National Park Service will be celebrating its 100th birthday on August 25th, 2016. This spring the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation launched the public awareness and education campaign “Find Your Park,” to get the country ready for the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service and to set the stage for the next 100 years.

Find Your Park invites the public to see that a national park is more than just a place  it can be a feeling, a state of mind, or a sense of American pride. Beyond vast landscapes, the campaign highlights historical, urban, and cultural parks, as well as National Park Service programs that protect, preserve and share nature, culture, and history in communities nationwide. Further, Find Your Park encourages people to find their own personal connections within the network of national parks and public lands.

The campaign is designed to build support with young Americans and to connect the next generation with the National Park Service. Michelle Obama and Laura Bush are serving as honorary co-chairs of the National Park Service centennial celebration. Celebrities Bill Nye (scientist), Bella Thorne (TV and film actress), Roselyn Sanchez (TV and film actress), Terrence J. (TV personality) and Mary Lambert (singer/songwriter and LGBT advocate) are official Centennial ambassadors who will be reaching out to the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates.

Zion National Park’s main focus for the centennial will be a large online and social media presence to engage the public. The park will also be incorporating the centennial into existing events. Over the next two years you will find special exhibits at the museum and visitor center, special ranger talks, and other small events. Zion National Park will also help to promote lesser known area parks, national monuments and public lands. Visit www.FindYourPark.come to learn more the National Park Service and National Park Foundation’s centennial campaign and to find your park!

In addition to building support for the National Park Service and to support their goal to connect, protect and inspire, the National Park Foundation is giving back to Zion National Park. Through their Centennial Fundraising Campaign, they are raising funds to reconstruct and reopen the Middle Emerald Pools trail.

After a record breaking snowfall on the plateau of Zion, there was a period of warm weather in December of 2010 and 9 consecutive days of heavy continuous rain that caused major flooding in Zion Canyon. The Virgin River peaked at 5,860 cfs causing the park to close the canyon. It was during this major flooding that there was a small landslide on the Middle Emerald Pools trail just past the junction with the Sand Bench trail. According to James Brown, Zion Trail Crew Supervisor, “The section of the slide that was most severe was the top of the slump, where the land slid 20 vertical feet. Initially the park tried to reopen the trail but in just one weekend, the slide moved half a foot. This caused the park to close the Middle Emerald Pools trail and even today it continues to move a few inches or so each time it rains.” The trail cannot be put back in the same area but the plan is to reroute the trail in order to safely reopen it. This project would include new infrastructure including drainage structured like culverts and water bars, stone retaining walls, and check steps (stone or log fronted steps with crushed rock inside) to retain the soil.

The Middle Emerald Pools Trail Centennial Fundraiser is currently one the National Park Foundation’s Top 50 Centennial Fundraising Projects and the Zion National Park Foundation is hoping to match the funds that they raise. Construction of the Emerald Pools Trails: Lower, Middle and Upper began in 1932 by the National Park Service and were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. The Middle Emerald Pools trail is an asset to Zion National Park, as it was one of the most popular trails in the park. With an increase of supporters and awareness it is our hope that this iconic trail in Zion will once again be open to the public.

Photo by Sarah Stio, NPS: Ranger Adam, Ranger Jin, and millennials celebrate the announcement of the “Find Your Park” Campaign in Zion National Park.

By: Jin Prugsawan, Park Ranger

Meet the Crew Behind the Scenes

We would like to introduce two of our dedicated employees who work behind the scenes to keep ZNHA rolling smoothly.  Meet Toni and Tammy…. the ZNHA warehouse crew.

Toni Tracy came on board as warehouse technician and has been here longer than anyone in the organization. She has seen a lot of change and growth within the organization and with the park partners. When asked about working with ZNHA, Toni reminisced about the days when the shuttle first started and the ZNHA wing was added to the administration building. Toni adds tenure, experience, and humor to the workplace with her delightful attitude. She is one to go the extra mile to provide customer service. She wants everyone to have the best possible experience in Zion and with ZNHA. She puts herself out there to become friends with the everyone – we think of Toni as the “welcome wagon.” She is an asset to ZNHA and Zion National Park.

Tammy Eberhard, Warehouse Manager, has been with ZNHA for fifteen years. Her contribution to the organization has been multi-faceted as she has served on various committees and contributed in countless ways. Tammy doesn’t just receive and stock products, she manages all aspects of the warehouse. When interviewed about working for ZNHA, Tammy said, “I’m proud to have been part of the product representation and development of our stores. The ZNHA store was initially packed in a corner of the old visitor center (now the Zion Human History Museum). I’ve been fortunate to work with people over the years that have worked closely with our park partners to develop and introduce products and programs that I think have far surpassed all our expectations for revenue. I’m lucky to have a job that supports a park that is so special to me.”

A big shout-out to these two awesome ladies!


ZCFI Thursday Trek – “Take a Hike with Mike”

“Take a hike with Mike!” That was the call for Thursday’s Trek on March 28th. Michael was sure we would see bighorn sheep and promised to take us where the crowds wouldn’t amass.

The fusion of a crisp spring morning, the warm colors of the Navajo sandstone, and being out of the office on a Wednesday, filled me with a euphoria I haven’t felt in a while. My spirits soared while riding up the twists of the Zion Canyon switchbacks. There’s something about playing hooky on a workday that rejuvenates the soul. I wasn’t actually playing hooky; I had permission to attend the Thursday Trek with the Zion Canyon Field Institute. (Being in the park on a workday but not spending eight hours behind a computer screen at a desk felt a little like playing hooky.)

Locations vary, but Michael had chosen the east side of Zion for our Thursday Trek. Once we arrived at our destination, ZCFI Director Michael Plyler didn’t hesitate for a moment to give us what we had come for: a personal encounter with nature. He explained how windswept crossbedding formed areas of slickrock on the east side of Zion. Windswept ripples of sand hardened over time to produce formations which look like waves of water. We saw the sorted material remains of a flash flood environment in Clear Creek.

We not only learned about geology, but also botany as Michael explained how the edges of the Manzanita leaves move to the sun throughout the day to keep the leaves from drying out. We were shown the diverse ecosystems, cultural history and fauna of Zion. Who would have guessed the chirping sound we heard was actually a rock squirrel.

The petroglyphs show pictures of animals which look like the bighorn sheep of today, and interestingly enough, all but one of the animals face the same direction. Michael quizzed us as to why this might be?

One theory was that all of the ancients were right handed except one: many theories about the carvings, but none of the ancients left to give the actual story. Because of dated cultural material recovered from subsurface deposits associated with the images, archaeologists agree that humans have occupied the Zion area for somewhere around 7,000 years. Based on those dates, we would assign the images to a broad Ancestral Puebloan cultural affiliation.

The only remaining histories of these people are fragile, and although they have survived the winds and waters of time, they need to be protected for future study and enjoyment. Even touching these cultural treasures can deteriorate their historical and cultural value.

Many Pools Canyon is a hike I’m looking forward to replicating after a rain storm. Although the pools were stagnant, they still had reflective qualities and displayed a diversity of life from water skeeters to the ancient tadpole shrimp (triops longicaudatus*). How Zion canyon was carved and how this slickrock formation was manipulated with wind and water was evident. Small trickles of water ran down the slopes into pools where tadpoles, water skeeters, and other evidence of life were responding to the warmth of spring. The cacti were beginning to bud, the manzanita was in bloom, trees were budding, and other signs of spring were evident. Temperatures were nearly perfect requiring a jacket early on the trek, but shed by the time we stopped for lunch on a rock ledge in the shade of a giant ponderosa pine.

As we continued our trek farther back into the canyon, the pools became more frequent and deeper. Nature’s debris was evidence of past flash floods as rain water gravitated to lower elevations and filled each pool and then overran their depths. Each storm cutting the pots a little deeper and wider as the sandstone weathered away or filling others with sand and debris.

We never did see any bighorn sheep except the petroglyph carvings; but as promised, encountering other park visitors was minimal. It almost seemed as if we had the park to ourselves. Reality struck when we got back to the road making our way to the cars.

Thursday Treks don’t come with a visitor checklist or brochure to define what you’ll do or see. Each one differs depending on the guide, the weather, the time of year, what critters and blossoms are in season, and the engagement level of each participant. For me, it was an enjoyable day out of the office with an opportunity to witness what the Zion Canyon Field Institute offers!

Some comments from our participants that day:

“Thank you Mike, it was a pleasure meeting you on the Thursday hike. It was fantastic! What a great way to see Zion. The weather, the people, and the hike were all just wonderful! I have been to Zion many times and I have never done the two hikes we did. I loved not only the hike but all of the wonderful info. bestowed upon us. It was informative and beautiful and worth every penny!! It was just what I hoped for and more.



“Spending the day with the Field Institute group was great. Before we left the history museum [after the hike] we joined (ZNHA) and signed up for the Mohave Wildflower offering. Here are a few words about why it was such a valuable day:

Usually when we take off on a new trail we find ourselves asking a string of questions wondering about the name of something on the trail, the story behind what we are seeing, or the history of the area we are in. Mostly we speculate or say we can always look that up when we get home. But by the end of the day, we forget to do that. The hike with the Field Institute hike leader means our future hikes will be more enjoyable because we are better able to understand and appreciate something about where our footsteps take us.

Thanks to everyone who puts the Field Institutes together for a great day.”

Linda and Bob Shadiow


By Karolee Dennett, ZNHA Communications and Office Administrator


How to Get Charged in Zion – Literally!

“I am pleased to announce that your project is approved to proceed under the agreement between the National Park Service and the Department of Energy Clean Cities Program.”


Just a couple weeks into my new job as Environmental Protection Assistant with Zion’s Sustainability program, my first assignment was a big one. The Department of Energy had approved a grant to install ten electric vehicle charging stations in the park and purchase three electric fleet vehicles. I scanned the approval letter for guidance on how to move forward. My supervisor, Alex, and I soon realized that we would be one of the first parks to implement such a program…and we had a lot of research ahead of us. Other parks would look to us as an example and we wanted to make sure we got it right.

I called several cities that had charging infrastructure installed. My hope of emulating their systems was quickly lost as I realized that many municipalities require a membership card or smartphone for public charging. With over three million visitors from all over the world, we couldn’t consider any models that required membership and the remoteness and features of our canyon squashed any option of using smartphones for payment. A recent memo from Washington stated that we must collect payment to recover our costs. While that might be an easy task in a city, I wake up daily to sunlight streaking down red rock walls that tower over me by a couple thousand feet- the same walls that make a simple phone call to my family in Ohio a challenging task. When I curse the fact that I can’t get Internet to my home, my brother (who owns an electric car in Cincinnati) tells me I should be thankful. On many occasions through this project, I called him… “How in the world can I expect to plant one of these confounded charging devices into this wilderness void of a reliable cell signal and expect it to do its thing just as it would in Cincinnati, Ohio?”

The answer: Zion Natural History Association! We located a charging station that offered a payment system with a simple keypad. No Internet connection needed. No cell phone. No membership. Punch in the correct code and the station can tell when and how long to provide a charge to the vehicle. ZNHA offered to sell these codes at the bookstore and provide an instructional card to the visitor. We designed the stations so that a visitor could purchase a code at the ZNHA desk in Zion Canyon or Kolob Canyons and be able to use that same code at either location. The code is good for three days, which allows extended charging opportunities for an (hopefully!) extended park visit.

Thank you, ZNHA, for once again teaming up with the NPS to provide new and exciting opportunities to park visitors. And thank YOU, park visitors, for teaming up with us to ensure cleaner, greener, more sustainable visits with an impact that extends beyond our park boundaries!

By Juli Rohrbach, Zion National Park Environmental Sustainability Coordinator

NPS Photo – Charging station at Kolob Canyons

Cedar Breaks Arts Afire Plein Air Art Event

Cedar Breaks National Monument invites all to participate in the inaugural Cedar Breaks Arts Afire: Plein Air Art Event on July 28 – August 1, 2015. This event will showcase the meaning of national parks and monuments through the creation of art. Various activities are planned for the summer: plein air demonstrations and sales, children’s art activities in the park, and online nature activities for kids.
Local artists Brad Holt, Mary Jabens and Valerie Orlemann have been chosen to paint in Cedar Breaks National Monument and the Brian Head area throughout July.   On July 28th – 30th Plein Air painting demonstrations will be given  at Point Supreme adjacent to the Cedar Breaks Visitor Center.  Artists will demonstrate their processes and answer questions from 10 am – 12 pm. Valerie Orlemann will demonstrate on Tuesday, Brad Holt on Wednesday, and Mary Jabens on Thursday.
Art created during the Plein Air event will be available for sale at the Festival of Flavors July 31st and August 1st at Giant Steps Lodge in Brian Head. Forty percent of the proceeds will benefit youth programs thru the Zion National Park Foundation.
From 5:00 pm to midnight on Friday, July 31st, Giant Steps Lodge will host the plein air art preview and gourmet tasting competition. This will be an intimate event with no door fee and numerous types of food and drink to sample – plus live music! Friday will also be an opportunity for “first pick” of some great art sold from 5:00 pm until 8:00 pm.
On Saturday, August 1st, the Festival of Flavors will open at 11:00 am and continue until midnight. The tasting competition will be over, but the same food and drinks will still be available for sampling. Plein Air paintings and many other types of art will also be on display. Plein air artwork will be sold from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. There will also be live music and activities for kids, artisan food trucks and vendors, great beverages from local breweries, distilleries and wineries, rides, games and more!
On Friday, July 31st – Saturday, August 1st from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, in conjunction with the Festival of Flavors, Cedar Breaks National Monument will be hosting art activities for youth of all ages. Booths will be set up at Point Supreme adjacent to the visitor center with instructors and materials to make life-size paper pikas, giant tissue paper wildflowers, nature related coloring pages, and a canvas mural for all ages to paint. Plan to stop by on your way to or from the Festival of Flavors!
Throughout the summer, Cedar Breaks National Monument will be posting youth activities on their website.  The objective is to help kids create new connections with the outdoors using current technology. Projects can be found at: