Second tram heads for Moab

  The redrock desert around the tourist town of Moab, Utah, has been colonized by motels and mountain bikers for over a decade. Still, some locals never thought they'd have to worry about ski lifts.


Now, less than six months after a controversial chairlift opened for business on the west side of Moab, the county planning commission has given the go-ahead for a second tram.


The new tram, to be built just north of the town near the Colorado River, will lift passengers 400 feet up along 1,000 feet of cable. At the top of the 10-minute ride, developers plan to build a visitor center, a retail store and a restaurant, all surrounded by a 14,000 square-foot viewing deck.


At a recent county planning commission meeting, Nevada ski-lift designer William Jewett said he understood fears that his $3 million tram would draw more tourists than the fragile desert environment could stand.


"This is a spectacular place," said Jewett. "You really have to watch out that you don't let people trample the natural beauty of the area."


He said immediate plans do not call for the tram to serve as a connection to the Slickrock Bicycle Trail, which passes within several hundred feet of the upper terminal. But he added he would like to meet with Bureau of Land Management officials in the future to discuss building a possible bike trail between the tram and the Slickrock Trail.


Residents have raised concerns about light pollution of the valley from the tram and its signs. Jewett and his business partner, Chris Shellabarger of Arizona, say low-level and recessed lighting will be used throughout the project, and no lights will be placed on the cable line or gondola cars.


One area resident says these reassurances remind him of similar promises made by Emmett Mays, the developer of the first Moab tram. "It's not true," says Joseph Lekarczyk. "Lights up high and on the ridge are clearly visible all over the valley."


*Lisa Church