Why are you banned from seeing a water fall in Zion National Park?

Written by By Staff Writer Staff Writer

Posted on AIM by Young Yong Kim, Cato Institute

You might think a beautiful place like Zion National Park is open to all (and not just to sightseers), but it’s not. Like any hiking park, it is governed by various park rules, such as for wildlife protection. One of these rules is “no people on waterfalls.” For instance, in 1980 the park put the Zion Canyon Gorge off limits to all but experienced firefighters, because the roar of the water was too much for human hearing and eardrums. In October 2018, the park evicted a group of hikers because they found an area where no other hikers had been, and decided to put up a sign warning of the waterfalls. These hikers then raised the ruckus that would lead to the park’s latest (and most caustic) response to the hiking community: People can’t hike Angels Landing because “no one would ever go down that turn.”

This pretty much says it all: Everybody who wants to hike can get the government to approve their permit application to hike up the main trail to Angels Landing, while only amateurs and non-experts who might not be up to the steepness of the trail would ever dare enter Angels Landing. In most other countries it would be perfectly OK for non-experts to take the plunge up and down Angel’s Landing. Two parts to this logic: First, the number of people the U.S. government is willing to let into the park (or any other national park) is far in excess of the number of people who actually want to hike. Second, the few people who get into the park and who can actually hike the trail fall in the category of “people.” Of course, by the federal government’s own admission, those limited numbers are not as large as the handful who come from outside the park and decide that Angels Landing is a place they would like to visit again and again and actually hike it. So, if we accept the logic of the First part, let’s consider the Second part: Why should only half a million people on the planet be allowed to wander off into a national park when most people are not allowed to? A serious consideration of this question also raises the obvious question about whether the federal government should get to control visitation in order to make sure that its idea of “national” has been preserved for another 100 years.

Next up, I’ll deal with the infamous “Taj Mahal of Walls” at Zionsville in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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