GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK, Utah — The Bureau of Land Management is giving the state of Utah and Emery County thousands of acres of land, essentially tripling the size of Goblin Valley State Park.
At a ceremony at the park on Friday, BLM director Tracy Stone-Manning signed papers to convey 6,300 acres to the state.
"When Utahns and people visiting from all over come to visit our public lands, if they’re managed by the same entity, the management is going to be better," she told FOX 13 News in an interview.
It's happening as a result of a bipartisan bill Congress passed. Sen. Mitt Romney co-sponsored the legislation. Goblin Valley State Park is becoming increasingly popular, drawing over 500,000 visitors a year now.
Emery County Commissioner Lynn Sitterud said when Arches National Park in Moab began restricting the number of people they let in, more people started showing up.
"The overflow came in here. This park really became known," he said.
Goblin Valley is famous for its unique hoodoos, formed as a result of erosion in the sandstone. People can walk among the "goblins" in a series of valleys. With the expansion of the park, improved signage and camping services will be offered. There will also be better access to nearby slot canyons in "The Reef," a spectacular rock formation.
"With these new access points, you can get there with a passenger car. So we’re going to mark those with signs and let people know how to get into them," said Jim Wells, the park manager.
A major improvement as a result of the conveyance will be for public safety. Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk said the slot canyons are popular, but can be very dangerous in rapidly changing weather. There is hardly any cell service in the area, which has been problematic for visitors and rescuers alike.
"We’ve had incidents in the past out there and we’ve had to station deputies in different locations and relay until we could finally hit a radio tower," he said.
Emery County will install a radio tower. They will also be putting in limited data service with a QR code to give park visitors an idea of weather conditions to expect before they venture into any slot canyons.
"Scan a QR code, they’ll get service on their phone to download the latest flash flood news. They’ll know if there’s a storm coming and the risk if they go into a canyon," said Wells.