Hats Off to the National Park Service on Its 100th Birthday

By Lyman Hafen, Executive Director

For nearly 20 years I’ve had a unique vantage of the National Park Service and how it operates in Zion National Park. I do not work for the Park Service, or for the Federal Government. As executive director of Zion Natural History Association, I work for a private, non-profit corporation and answer to a duly elected board of directors who volunteer their time to oversee the operation of ZNHA as Zion National Park’s official partner. Because my office is in the park administration building, and because I interact with the park superintendent and several division chiefs on a nearly daily basis, I’ve been given a perspective on the Park Service that few others have.

Over the past two decades I’ve grown to admire, respect and appreciate these federal employees in ways I would have never imagined. I’ve worked with five different superintendents of the park and more than a dozen different division chiefs. I’ve sat in countless park squad meetings and scores of planning and organizational meetings. And I’ve learned, first-hand, how even within the often constraining and confounding culture of a federal agency, these individuals find ways to translate their love for the national parks, and specifically their passion for Zion National Park, into a better experience for millions of visitors each year. As we celebrate the Centennial of the National Park Service this year, my hat is off to all the amazing Park Service personnel in Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, and Pipe Spring National Monument with whom I’ve worked in partnership over the years, and to the thousands of Park Service employees across the country who administer the more than 400 sites in the National Park System.

Back in 1914, when there were just a handful of national parks and monuments in the United States, there was no official agency to administer them. At the time, Zion Canyon had already been declared Mukuntuweap National Monument by signature of President William Howard Taft in 1909. Competent local people had been hired by the federal government to supervise the park, but there was no formal system in place to administer Zion or any of the other early parks in America.

A wealthy industrialist who also had a passion for the nature and grand landscapes of America, began visiting the existing national parks and monuments. His name was Stephen Mather and what he discovered in places like Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, was the need for a well-organized federal agency to administer the parks. In 1914, he wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Interior expressing his disappointment at the deteriorating conditions in some of the national parks. The response Mather received truly changed America. In effect, the Secretary told Mather if he didn’t like the way the parks were being run, he should come to Washington and run them himself. Mather did just that. Along with his assistant Horace Albright, who succeeded him as the first director of the National Park Service, he conceived of, planned, lobbied for and organized the agency that has administered our beloved national parks ever since.

Every day I witness the hard work and sacrifice of the employees of the National Park Service as they maintain the roads and facilities in the park, interact with the public and impart interpretive information with a smile, work in innovative ways to protect the natural and cultural resources of the park, provide security in the campgrounds and patrol the roads and trails of the park, and, on an almost daily basis, rescue or give aid to park visitors who’ve been lost, injured or suffered a medical emergency. They are among the most competent and passionate people I have ever met, and day after day they continue to serve park visitors in amazing ways, even on days such as this spring when more than 20,000 people have congregated in Zion Canyon at one time.

I am a witness to how much Park Service employees love the places where they work, even as they strive to help all of us who also love them – and in the process try to help us not love them to death. It’s a continual balancing act and we are blessed that such an agency exists and that such excellent people work for it, and for us.

Zion Plein Air Artists Selected for 2016 Centennial Edition

Schedule of Plein Air Events | 2016 Studio Paintings Exhibit | Featured Artist: John Cogan

Planning and preparations for the annual Zion National Park Plein Air Art Invitational have become a year-round process in the offices of Zion Natural History Association. The artist selection committee, made up of 15 representatives of ZNHA, Zion National Park, and the local and regional art community, recently completed the artist selection process for this year’s event. The result of their efforts was the naming of 24 excellent artists who will paint in Zion Canyon during the week of November 7-13, 2016, celebrating the role art played in the creation of Zion National Park, and this year, the added celebration of the influence of original art in the founding of the National Park Service one hundred years ago.

Among this year’s selected artists are several long-standing favorites, a few who have been away for a while, as well as six brand new artists to the event. There are 16 oil painters on this year’s slate, three watercolor artists, two who work in acrylic, and three pastel artists. This year’s featured artist, selected as last year’s Foundation Award Winner, is John Cogan of Farmington, New Mexico. Cogan’s painting, “Waters of Evening” is being used in all of this year’s promotional materials, including national ads appearing in major art publications.

As part of this year’s “Centennial Edition” of Plein Air, each artist is invited to submit one studio painting of a national park other than Zion. Those paintings, along with one other studio painting by each artist, will hang in the Zion Human History Museum beginning September 14th through the end of the Plein Air week. The studio paintings are on sale as soon as they are hung. The plein air paintings produced during Plein Air Week will go on sale Friday evening, November 11, at an invitation only preview event for art buyers. Then, beginning Saturday morning at 9 am, the show opens to the public and will remain open, 9 am to 5 pm through November 28, 2016.

As has become tradition, each artist will give a free one-hour painting demonstration during the week on the patio of the Zion Human History Museum. You may also interact with artists throughout the week as they paint at various locations in the canyon.

Saturday of Plein Air Week has become one of the most fascinating days of the year in the park as all 24 artists participate in a Paint Out and Sale which is held up-canyon on the lawn of the Zion Lodge. Between 11 am and 2 pm, you can watch each of the artists paint in fairly close proximity and if your heart settles on a particular painting, you can put your name on it and claim it for purchase, even before it is completed. In the meantime, a silent auction of the paintings produced for the demonstrations during the week will be ongoing in the Lodge Auditorium. When the bell rings, each painting will go to the highest bidder on the bid sheet.

This year’s Centennial Edition of Plein Air will also feature a special slate of free lectures on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, as well as a presentation by Zion Canyon Field Institute Director Michael Plyler on the role of art in the creation of the National Parks.

If you can only spend a few days, or even one day, in Zion National Park this year, we suggest you make plans for that visit in early November when the air is inspiringly crisp, the leaves are golden, and the artists are at work.

For a schedule of events, visit http://zionpark.org/about/zion-national-park-plein-air-art-invitational/.

Photo: John Cogan at Saturday paint out by Karolee Dennett


Middle Emerald Pools Trail

The Middle Emerald Pools Trail Centennial Fundraiser is currently one of the National Park Foundation’s Top 50 Centennial Fundraising Projects and the Zion National Park Foundation is hoping to match the funds they raise. Construction of the Emerald Pools Trails: Lower, Middle and Upper began in 1932 by the Nation Park Service. They were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

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. This trail was one of the most popular trails in Zion National 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.

Visit our “Give Now” page to contribute to the rehabilitation of this historic trail.

~ Photo courtesy Zion NP. James Brown, Zion Trail Crew Supervisor, stands where the 2010 landslide covered a section of the Middle Emerald Pools Trail. Previous to the slide, at this location the trail gently ascended and made a switch-back to return towards the big rock above James’ head. The ground slumped taking out both levels of trail.

Fred Armstrong Named as Superintendent for Pipe Spring National Monument

Fred Armstrong, a 35-year career employee with the National Park Service, has been selected as the next superintendent at Pipe Spring National Monument, Arizona.  For the past 4 1/2 years, he has been the division chief for natural and cultural resources and research at Zion National Park.  “I had the opportunity to work with the staff and tribal representatives at Pipe Spring for two months this winter as interim superintendent,” Armstrong said. “The experience with those talented people, their interest in expanding programs and their deep care for the monument resources were enough to convince me to compete for the permanent position.”
Fred has an excellent working relationship with the ZNHA staff at Zion, and is quick to support educational, scientific and research projects funded by ZNHA which enhance visitor understanding of park resources.  He has been involved with the Zion plein air event artist gallery exhibition and artist introductions for art demonstrations.
Although he will be missed at Zion, it is good to know that we will have a tried-and-true ZNHA advocate and program supporter within the Zion Group at Pipe Spring National Monument.

The Inside Scoop

Everyone would like to hear the inside scoop. Well, here it is from three ZNHA Lead Sales Associates who will tell you the hottest items to buy at the Zion Visitor Center Bookstore, why they wanted to work for ZNHA at Zion, their favorite spot in the park, where they came from to work in this beautiful place, and why park visitors should become members of Zion Natural History Association.

Melissa says “Crawford,” the Adopt-a-Bighorn plush animal, is her favorite item, “not only because it supports a great cause, but I love to see all the cute names visitors come up with when filling out the adoption paperwork.” Margaret bought the plush jack rabbit because she thinks it is so cute.  When we asked Basia what her favorite item in the store is, she replied, “T-SHIRTS, T-SHIRTS, T-SHIRTS! We have so many wonderful styles and designs, and the new shirts this year are beautiful. They make great gifts and stocking stuffers, and they make great clothing layers to stuff in the backpack.”

Basia came to Zion as a volunteer to work at the information counter in the visitor center. She said, “I learned so much, had such a wonderful experience, saw so many visitors go into the bookstore, and admired the mission of ZNHA so much I wanted to aid as many park visitors as possible, so I sought to join the ZNHA team. Now I not only help the park I love so with the sales, I also get to help visitors with their needs (sometimes with questions the info counter can’t answer) — the best of both worlds.”

Basia’s hometown is Lomianki (pronounced to sound like Wom-yong-key) Poland. “Imagine living in a small farming community outside Warsaw of just under 17,000 people nestled between the Vistula River and Kampinos National Park.” Her favorite spot in the park: “Well…,”she said, “this is a very hard question to answer if you’ve explored this park as much as I have, seen it in all its seasons, sunset to sunrise, peaks to deep canyons chasing the melodies of all the wonderful song birds. My truly favorite spot is anywhere in the park with a smile in my heart.”

Margaret left the beaches of Southern California and eventually made her way to Zion National Park. She says, “My favorite spot in the park is the bookstore! Or, some of the trails off the Kolob Terrace Road.” She thinks visitors should become members of ZNHA to “connect to a cause and a positive community.” She chose to work for ZNHA so she could support the park.

Melissa’s ancestors were Mormon pioneers who helped settle Zion. Hence, her love of Zion National Park. She wanted to work for ZNHA, “Because of all the wonderful things it does to help support the park.” Her favorite spot in Zion is the Riverside Walk. She muses, “I love watching all the wildlife, listening to the river flow, seeing and smelling all the pretty wildflowers. The mountains have a magical glow to them. It’s a very beautiful spot to be.”

Melissa grew up and still resides in LaVerkin, Utah which is just a short distance from Zion. She is one of ZNHA’s top membership advocates. Her enthusiasm for the program is evident in her comment, “It’s a great cause that supports Zion National Park! When you become a member, you help fund the free Map and Guide we give out and the great Jr. Ranger programs that are offered during the season. Plus, you get great gifts and discounts at our store and other cooperating associations across the country.”

These loyal sales associates are delighted to assist you in selecting the best products to remember your Centennial trip to Zion National Park and give you the inside scoop.


ZCFI Lecture: Engaging Youth – The Next Generation of Public Land Employees and Stewards

Thursday, April 14, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.

Come join us to learn about the Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative’s (IIC) efforts to expose young people to the wide variety of learning experiences, internships and potential career opportunities available in public land management. This unique partnership includes the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Utah State Parks, Utah Department of Natural Resources, the US Forest Service, several Paiute Tribal Governments, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and both Southern Utah University and Dixie State University. This partnership was recognized in 2013 with the Secretary of Interior’s Partnership in Conservation Award for their “exceptional contributions to conserve our natural and cultural heritage while preparing the next generation of stewards and professionals.”

Presenters will be Paul Roelandt, Superintendent at Cedar Breaks National Monument; Jeff Bradybaugh, Superintendent of Zion National Park; and Brian Raper and Bridget Eastep of Southern Utah University.

Canyon Community Center (126 Lion Blvd) Springdale, Utah.

The Zion Canyon Field Institute’s Fern and J. L. Crawford Lecture Series is a collaborative presentation of ZCFI and the Division of Resource Management in Zion National Park. For more information please call 435-772-3264. Lectures are free and open to the public.

Zion Canyon Field Institute is the educational arm of Zion Natural History Association, the park’s non-profit partner.