JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK TRYING TO KEEP NEW WEST ENTRANCE ON SCHEDULE

The three month-shutdown of the country because of the coronavirus negatively affected the operations of Joshua Tree National Park. The park relies on entrance fees to fund the salaries of many of its employees. In addition, the gate fees also go into the budget for park improvements. The shutdown cost the park about $3 million. Managing editor Tami Roleff says Park Superintendent David Smith talked about a couple of the park’s projects affected by the shutdown…

“The Ryan Mountain Trail refurbish, that’s about a $200,000 project. It’s one we really want to do, we really want to work on that trail, but maybe we can put it off for a year.”

Superintendent David Smith says planning projects in Joshua Tree National Park is a five-year process, and he has been working with staff to find projects that can be delayed until there’s more money.

“The one that’s killing me is West Entrance. That’s our big baby right now. It’s a pretty expensive project; we’ve got to expand the road, we’re building four entrance stations.”

The West Entrance in Joshua Tree has been experiencing bottlenecks of up to an hour or more for a long time as visitors wait in their cars on Quail Springs Road to enter the park. The park plans to move the existing entrance operations about a half mile into the park. It will expand the roadway for a couple hundred yards leading into the entrance by one outbound lane, two inbound lanes, and a bike lane. There will be four entrance stations—two stations in tandem for each lane. And to keep the stations cool, a shade structure will be installed over them. In addition, a new ranger office will be built, and water and power will be extended into the park about a half mile as well. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $2.5 million.

Smith said the park saved some money by not hiring as many employees during the shutdown, and it’s been able to keep the West Entrance project viable; he hopes it’ll start in 2021-22.

“So I think we’re still slated to have that in about 18 months or so, is when we’ll break ground.”

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