Buried in the bombshell about taking a butcher’s knife to our public lands, are the machinations to improve Hole in the Rock Road, build a state park, and make this area more accessible to the general public.
And by the general public, per the linked article, this concept means groups of up to 100 LDS youth studying their historical roots in this area.
Much as the LDS church took over the historic Devil’s Gate area on the historic Oregon Trail and renamed it Martin’s Cove, I suspect this proposed state park will be less about preserving a wild place and more about reframing the area as part of a greater LDS narrative.
But this article is not about this particular hoodwink.
Instead, it is about anytime there are plans to “improve” a wild space, the same argument comes up: We need to make the area accessible to more people.
Be it improved roads, more amenities, better connectivity, or increased services; the rallying cry is always that more people need more or better access.
But does every area have to be accessible? Can we not have places a little rougher, a bit more remote, and challenging enough where a person needs a particular skill set and fitness level to access?
I love my road trip. But I’ve realized that the national parks and NPS administered monuments I have been visiting aren’t wild or that remote overall.
They are awe-inspiring, memorable, and beautiful. America’s legacy to the world is our park system.
But except for pockets within the parks, they are not overly wild. They are regulated heavily, accessible, and administered to a strict standard.
That is not a complaint. Our parks have a different mission and focus than a remote canyon in BLM land. And I accept that by going to mainly national parks on my road trip, that I have also accepted certain constraints when seeing these jewels of America’s public lands.
On the other hand, my journey through Utah was so memorable because I went through wild areas. Areas not accessible to everyone. Areas not maintained or heavily regulated. Areas that will soon no longer be wild, alas. Areas that may soon have a new energy road. Or a state park. Or both.
Perhaps it is easy for me to want wild and remote spaces when I am a healthy, strong, and competent backcountry enthusiast.
But if (when) my health fails at some point due to old age or circumstance, I won’t pine for more access.
Instead, I’ll celebrate the fact that I was able to access these remote areas when they were still wild.
We need our wild spaces. Without true wildness the outdoors is lacking certain aspects that appeal to our need for some rough edges in our lives.
All of life can’t be tamed, regulated, and genteel. We need to huff, puff, sweat, scramble, push ourselves, get a little lost, scraped up, banged up, bruised, battered, and live life without guard rails.
I want some wild spaces. A new visitor center with dioramas of what used to be there when it was less accessible be damned.