In an article published by the Salt Lake Tribune on September 27, Scott Bulloch, the property owner cutting off access to 16 miles of the Zion Narrows hike, stated that he indeed wants hikers to be able to cross his family’s land, but he also wants the federal government to own or at the least hold easements of his property located along the east boundary of Zion National Park.
After having posted signs on his property in the area known as Simon Gulch, announcing fines for trespassing, Bulloch stated on Wednesday that he only wants fair consideration for the stretch of property that has been in his family for 50 years. His actions prompted the National Park Services to stop issuing permits to hike these world renowned slot canyons in the middle of the fall tourism season starting up.
“We feel that property should belong to the public, and we would like that to happen,” stated Bulloch.
Over the course of the past few years, negotiations with the federal government have been taking place. The eldest of the Bulloch’s feels as though the feds are lowballing the property and posted the trespassing signs, as well as for sale signs out of frustration with the rejection of a third-party appraisal by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land.
“We felt we needed to post the signs to get the government’s attention that this is an important piece of property,” stated Bulloch. “They seem to ignore the value of that. We think it has the same value as the park itself.”
While the park generally issues permits to hike the Narrows from the north fork down, they have ceased to issue permits as they weigh the appropriateness of granting them through private property.
Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said, “We can’t authorize someone to trespass on someone else’s land. If we issue a permit, we are, in effect, doing that. It’s just something we can’t do.”
While the initial land appraisal, conducted by the Trust for Public Lands, was rejected in June due to comparables that the Forest Service, who is overseeing the proposed transaction, argued was not accurate.
Michael Richardson, the Forest Service’s director of strategic communications stated, “We are bound by very specific rules. If it doesn’t comply, there isn’t anything we can do. We want people to know we didn’t just walk away. We want this access for the American people.”
While the land has been used as part of the trail since the 1970’s, the original agreement was verbal between Bulloch’s father and park superintendents decades ago. Bulloch stated, “It has been by permission all along. It’s not that we want to keep the public out. We want our property rights respected.”
“When the Forest Service people came down and looked at the [Simon Gulch] property, they said this land is priceless. Yet they don’t want to give us anything for it,” responded Bulloch. “You can’t compare it with neighboring ranchland because it is the only property with the Zions Narrows.”
You can read the original article published by the Salt Lake Tribune here.