Campsite Cuisine: Food Lockers for Watchman Campground

Project Need: $125,000

In last year’s Field Guide, Zion Forever Project sought support to install Bear Boxes at Zion’s highest elevation campsite, Lava Point (7890ft). The project has been a success, with the area seeing increased bear activity and the boxes helping to make the area safer for animals and visitors. 

In Zion’s main canyon, which sits 4000 feet below Lava Point, food storage concerns remain a concern. In Watchman Campground, food storage boxes can prevent deer and other smaller mammal populations from accessing visitor’s food. Installing food storage lockers is critical for the health of the park’s animals, ensuring that they do not consume food or materials left behind by visitors. 

Susan McPartland, Visitor Use Manager, regularly sees the consequences of poor food storage: “These lockers are essential for the safety of visitors and wildlife. They significantly reduce the chances of dangerous encounters and help to keep our wildlife healthy by preventing them from accessing and becoming dependent on human food. When we find animals in the park that have passed, they often have human food items, small pieces of plastic, and wrappers in their stomachs. Food boxes help to keep these animals safe.”

Zion aims to reduce human-wildlife conflicts further and promote a culture of responsibility and stewardship among its guests by installing and encouraging visitors to use these lockers.

Frank Peplowksi, a Scientist in the Park intern, is researching the consequences of bad food storage practices and helping to create baseline data so we can track changes in animal behaviors to inform future park management. Frank shared his motivations for working on the project: “As I delved into my research at Zion, I’ve come to understand the profound impact of human interaction on our small mammal populations. Witnessing firsthand the consequences of their human food consumption has reinforced my commitment to this work.”

This project is about more than convenience. It Is a testament to the park’s commitment to conservation and the protection of its ecosystems. Donations towards this work will be matched by funds from the Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation’s Recreation Restoration Infrastructure grant. You can play a crucial role in this mission and contribute to the safety of Zion’s visitors and the health of Zion’s wildlife by supporting the initiative today.