We reported Wednesday that the National Park Service was suspending permits to hike the Narrows from north to south in Zion National Park in Utah. A property owner had surprised the NPS by erecting no trespassing signs along the park boundary, prompting the shutdown. Little else was known at the time, but the private property owner responsible for the signs has spoken.
His name is Scott Bulloch and his family has owned an 880-acre chunk of land along Zion’s eastern border for 50 years. For the past few years, the Bullochs have been quietly negotiating with the federal government to sell the land to the NPS. But the two sides have reportedly come to loggerheads over the value of the land, and failing to come to an agreement, the Bullochs decided to put signage along the park boundary leading into the Simon Gulch, a popular section of the heavily-touristed slot canyon, that warned against trespassing and associated fines.
Other signs indicated the property was for sale.
Bulloch, according to the to Salt Lake Tribune, would like the government to take control of the property, but he doesn’t feel they’ve made a fair offer.
“We feel that property should belong to the public,” Bulloch said, “and we would like that to happen.”
This comes on the heels of an appraisal of the Bulloch’s property value arranged for by the Trust for Public Land. The feds overseeing the potential purchase of the land rejected the appraisal as being beyond market value. It seems that the appraisal attempted to account for the scenic value of the land, whereas the government tried to place the property’s value in context with ranchlands in the surrounding area that are similar, but which don’t border a priceless national park.
“When the Forest Service people came down and looked at the [Simon Gulch] property, they said this land is priceless,” Bulloch told the Tribune. “Yet they don’t want to give us anything for it,” Bulloch said. “You can’t compare it with neighboring ranchland because it is the only property with the Zion Narrows.”
There will likely be a new appraisal and more negotiations between the Bullochs and the government. The Bullochs say they planted the signs to draw attention to their case and the value of their land. How long the park service will keep from issuing permits is unclear, but they’ve explained that as long as the trail to the Narrows runs through private property with owners threatening trespassing fines, they can’t justify issuing backcountry permits.