MOAB -- Federal managers at Arches National Park are revisiting the rules that regulate rock climbing on the famous arches and natural bridges in southeast Utah.
National Park Service officials say they will consider broadening the regulations but not until they consider public comment being accepted through Aug. 10 on the new Climbing and Canyoneering Management Plan.
Sabrian Henry, the park's planning and compliance coordinator, said officials recognize rock climbing and canyoneering as significant park activities. But she says the new plan is needed to make sure increased use doesn't threaten the park's unique resources.
Canyoneering will get a particularly close look because of the increased popularity of the activity, which involves cross-country travel using climbing gear to ascend and descend challenging areas.
The review comes four years after Arches National Park first tightened up its rules on climbing after they found the regulations were too vague to prosecute Dean Potter, a climber who made his controversial "free solo" climb of Utah's iconic Delicate Arch in May 2006.
The current rules make it clear rock climbing is prohibited on any arch or natural bridge named on the U.S. Geological Survey 7.5 topographical maps.
The rule also prohibits "slacklining," or walking on a flat nylon webbing or rope anchored between rock formations, trees or any other natural feature.
Kate Cannon, superintendent of Arches National Park, said the new review will include an evaluation of the effects of increased use, the development of new routes, the use of fixed hardware, the designation of climbing and canyoneering routes, the development of approach trails, the visual impacts and the effects of climbing and canyoneering on visitor safety and experience.
Commercial guiding also will be examined as well as the need for a possible permit system, group size limits and the policy on installing or replacing bolts, anchors and software, she wrote in the scoping document.
Matt Moore, owner of Desert Highlights in Moab, had the lone commercial climbing permit inside Arches National Park for 11 years until it was pulled this year as part of the planning process. He didn't like losing his permit, but supports the process itself. He said he recognizes that growth in canyoneering makes it necessary for managers to do more planning.