Online voters agree: Zion Tunnel wins restoration grant

The historic Zion Tunnel was carved through solid sandstone in the 1920s, Zion National Park, Utah, photo undated | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park Foundation, St. George News

ZION NATIONAL PARK – Zion National Park will receive a $201,000 grant for work on the historic Zion Tunnel and nearby switchbacks as a result of online voting in a contest to privately fund preservation of historic properties.

The iconic Zion Tunnel has been called an engineering marvel more than once; it was built in the 1920s and carved through solid sandstone.

Approximately 190,000 people voted online in the Partners in Preservation: National Parks program sponsored by National Geographic and American Express. Zion’s project was one of the top nine projects in votes received.

“It is very heartening to see how our proposal stood up with those of many of the great national parks across the country,” Lyman Hafen, executive director of the Zion National Park Foundation, said in a press statement.

“This effort allowed us to connect with thousands of friends of Zion National Park, and shows how much people care about its future.”

The grant will be used to preserve and maintain the historic Zion-Mount Carmel Highway switchbacks and the iconic 1.1-mile tunnel in the park. The funds are expected to be received by September 2016.

Fans of the national parks were invited to vote online for their favorite projects May 25 through July 5.

“We are thrilled with the response and support for Partners in Preservation: National Parks and are proud to be awarding $2 million in grants to extraordinary sites that tell the story of our national park system and reflect the rich cultural resources within it,” Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation, said.

Read more: Zion’s iconic sandstone tunnel needs your vote

“Like all of our historic properties, it takes quite a bit of care and maintenance to preserve it,” Zion Park cultural resources program manager Sarah Horton said in an earlier interview, “and we hope that this grant, this opportunity, will provide us with a good opportunity to be able to maintain the tunnel — the safety of it, the historic integrity and the things that make it important as a piece of the Zion story.”

Horton said the grant will help maintain the safety and historical integrity of the tunnel.

The tunnel requires constant upkeep, Horton said. The road itself, like any other road, must be repaved and repaired annually. A road crew within the park does most of the maintenance of the road but since it is also a federal highway, the Federal Highway Administration assists with its preservation.

The windows along the tunnel’s route also need constant repair. Much of the masonry in the galleries dates back to the 1920s when the tunnel was constructed.

The Zion Tunnel project competed with 19 other national park projects ranging from Alaska to Puerto Rico for $2 million in grants offered through the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The projects involve restoration and maintenance of historic landmarks.

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1 Comment

  • SteveSGU July 9, 2016 at 2:50 am

    When will this work take place, how long will it take, and how will it affect visitors to the park?

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