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Honor Award - DESIGN

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Zion Canyon
Zion National Park, Springdale, UT

Patrick Shea, ASLA, Project Leader, Denver Service Center (DSC), National Park Service (NPS); Steve Burns, DSC, NPs; Victoria Stinson, ASLA, DSC, NPs; Jim Butterfus, Zion National Park; Jeff Woods, DSC, NPs; Robb Williamson, ASLA, Photographer, Williamson Images

Victoria Stinson, ASLA
Landscape Architect, National Park Service
Denver Service Center
12795 West Alameda Parkway
Denver, CO 80225
Tel. 303-969-2287;
Fax 303-969-2736

Project Purpose

The project purpose was to preserve and restore natural and cultural resources and enhance the visitor experience through the planning, design, and implementation of a visitor transportation system for Zion National Park. Significantly increased visitation had resulted in traffic congestion, inadequate parking, destruction of natural resources, and a diminished visitor experience in the 6-mile upper portion of Zion Canyon. The project scope expanded from a national park transportation system to a partnership between the park, adjacent community, private business, and several public agencies. The completed project included a visitor center transportation complex, seven town and eight park shuttle stops, a bus maintenance facility, and a 3-mile bike path. The project and associated facilities became a metaphor for a resource-centered pedestrian experience for visitors and residents that promoted and interpreted sustainable design principles.

Role of the Landscape Architect

Landscape architects managed this project since its inception and led a diverse team of architects, engineers, sustainability specialists, interpretive and wayfinding planners, and contractors through project completion. Landscape architects led charettes ranging from facility designs and community streetscapes to vehicle characteristics and associated graphics. Roles included interfacing between park staff, town residents, local business interests, and state agencies to facilitate project and community partnerships. An onsite landscape architect provided an aesthetic perspective to daily construction and adjustments and ensured minimal resource damage and construction quality.

Special Factors

This project has set precedence and is a benchmark for other NPs transportation and visitor facility initiatives. Special factors included using a transportation system to promote national park values to visitors, a gateway community, and others; expanding the shuttle bus system into the gateway town of Springdale to resolve both park and community challenges and promote common solutions to traffic congestion; reducing development through use of existing town parking areas, thereby reducing visitor center parking by 50%; reducing the visitor center building development by moving program elements, such as interpretive exhibits and the amphitheater outside; and integrating and interpreting sustainable concepts throughout the project.


Quality of Design: Designers paid close attention to scale, detailing, and integration of historic and sustainable design elements into the environment. Participation through construction was critical to design quality outcomes.

Functionalism: Integration of a shuttle bus system helped the park to manage how and where visitors experience the park, and also provided a means of alternative transportation for visitors, park staff, and Springdale residents. The visitor center plaza incorporates a small outdoor amphitheater, interpretive exhibits, and visitor information on shuttle bus use and park features. Shuttle stops are sized based on visitor use studies and include elements common to the visitor center plaza, such as bike racks, shade shelters, boulders and stone masonry walls for site definition, seating, and resource protection.

Relationship to Context: The park context drove the transportation facilities' design. Masonry patterns, roof shapes, and scale were influenced by the park's CCC vernacular. Materials such as sandstone and wood timbers are common to the park environment and complemented with colored concrete paving and weathering steel common to all new building and site structures. Facilities were placed and shaped to retain as many mature trees as possible, and areas disturbed by construction were re-vegetated with native plantings. A Springdale plan was developed to incorporate shuttle stops and to restore part of the historic streetscape. Park shuttle stops were built in parking lots listed on the National Register; historic stone curbs were retained or restored, and each shuttle stop conformed to the historic layout.

Environmental Responsibility: Implementation of a transportation system, which uses propane-fueled vehicles, re-established the upper Zion Canyon as a special place. Landscapes damaged by automobiles are beginning to heal. The Canyon is noticeably more quiet, wildlife sightings are increasing, air pollution has been reduced, bicycling has increased, and visitors can more easily access its special features and trailheads. All new construction occurred on previously disturbed sites and by using energy-efficient building concepts, the park reduced energy and operating expenses. Sustainable concepts are interpreted onsite and include integration of historic irrigation ditches throughout the visitor center site to water trees and provide evaporative cooling; native plant re-vegetation; and integration of low-energy building systems such as down-draft cool towers for cooling, trombe walls for heating, and photovoltaics for building power.

Relevance to the Profession, the Public, and the Environment: This project effectively changes the way visitors experience Zion National Park and the community of Springdale. The Zion Canyon Transportation System sets a precedent for alternative transportation and integration of sustainable concepts in national parks, and through positive experiences, provides visitors with excellent examples of environmental stewardship.



2001 Award Winners
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