Timpanogos Cave is proposing four options for a new visitors center, two of which include having visitors park at the mouth of the canyon, where the new visitors center would be located, to take a shuttle to the cave itself.
One option would require cave visitors to ride the shuttle, with little or no public parking at the cave itself. Another option would require visitors to take a shuttle during peak hours only. Other options would do without a shuttle service but try to expand parking at the cave, cave superintendent Jim Ireland said on Thursday.
Cave officials will hold a public open house next week, where they will present details of the options and ask the public if any other options should be included.
"We just want to let the public know where we are at," Ireland said. "We are scoping to see if we have captured the full range of ideas."
If chosen, the shuttle would service only the cave. All other visitors to the canyon would continue to pay an entrance fee, as they do now, and drive to their destination, cave spokeswoman Cami McKinney said.
The point of all this is to increase the safety of the huge number of visitors -- 97,000 in 2011 -- to the cave each year. And the trailer that is the existing headquarters was always meant to be temporary. Falling rocks regularly punch holes through the roof of the visitors center, leaving staff in fear for their lives.
The government owns 37 acres at the mouth of the canyon, purchased by order of Congress, but Congress has never given funding for the new building to put on the property. The facility would jointly house the cave visitors center and headquarters, and National Forest Service offices and staff. Ireland said he is hopeful that a final building and transportation plan can be approved this year and sent to Congress, where it is likely to be five years or more before the building is given consideration for funding -- especially in the current economy.
"The federal budget right now is interesting, to say the least, so it is going to be up to Congress to provide funding," Ireland said. "We don't anticipate funding in the short term."
The National Park Service will host a public open house about the proposals for the future of the Timpanogos Cave visitors center. The meeting will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday in the multi-purpose room at Highland City Hall, 5400 W. Civic Center Drive. The public may submit written comments about the proposal by March 2.
Comments may be submitted online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/tica, or mailed to: Superintendent, Timpanogos Cave National Monument, R.R. 3 Box 200, American Fork, UT, 84003
Source: Herald Extra