The Hell’s Revenge trailhead parking lot will be paved after all. After putting the brakes on the project during a meeting two weeks ago, the Grand County Council on Tuesday voted to approve the contract for the project, giving the go-ahead for the parking lot improvements.
During its July 21 meeting, council members voted 5-1 against awarding the bid and contract to LeGrand Johnson, the sole bidder, after several local off-highway tour operators voiced their opposition to the project, saying the closure of the area – even for a few weeks – would negatively impact their business. Several people also voiced concerns about how an asphalt parking lot would affect the appearance of the area.
Council member Gene Ciarus said during the July meeting that putting a large “Wal-Mart” parking lot in the area isn’t desirable.
This week, the project was approved, by unanimous vote, as originally planned, but with more effort to screen the pavement from the Sand Flats Road. The additional screening will incur no additional cost, council members were told.
If construction intrudes into the fall busy season, alternative access routes have been worked out with commercial tour operators, said Sand Flats Recreation Area Director Andrea Brand who presented information to the council Tuesday that she said illustrated the need for the parking lot, and the drawbacks of the alternatives the council had directed her to evaluate.
“An estimated 35,000 visitors in private vehicles recreate on the Hell’s Revenge Trail over a four-month period in the spring and fall,” Brand said.
Commercial use adds much to this number. Large (20 or more) groups that have Bureau of Land Management permits often use the parking lot as a staging area for trips, she said.
“Many of these users are first-time visitors who need direction,” Brand said. “A trailhead sets the scene for further use in the backcountry. When a trailhead is organized and managed users tend to take this attitude with them in the back country and are more likely to follow regulations and stay on the the trail.”
Brand’s evaluation of alternatives, conducted with the Grand County Engineer Mark Wright and BLM specialists, concluded that covering the asphalt parking lot with colored sandstone chips would cost only about $10,000 extra, but new sandstone chips would have to be added periodically as traffic grinds the chips into the asphalt and brings its black color to the surface.
Building the parking lot out of colored concrete with a brushed surface would cost an additional $45,000 to $50,000. Stamped, colored concrete would cost as much as $100,000 more than simply paving the lot with asphalt and waiting for blow sand to change its color from dark black to grayish, Brand said.
While a federal grant is paying for half the parking lot’s total cost of $115,250, additional grants to cover such extra costs are not available, Brand said.
Photos of mayhem at the parking lot during the week of the Easter Jeep Safari, and of other parking lots where white lines painted on the asphalt keep vehicles in order, apparently convinced the most skeptical members of the council of the need for a developed parking lot.
“My opinion has changed,” Ciarus said Tuesday. “I really think it has to be done.”
The painted stripes will delineate traffic-flow patterns and parking for 10 vehicles with trailers and for seven single vehicles. Curbing and a v-pan waterway will be made of colored concrete to match surrounding sandstone, Brand said.
The total cost for the project includes about $75,000 for paving the lot, toilets, which have already been installed, a kiosk display, signs, and a seal coat to be applied to the asphalt later.
– Moab Times Independent