Parkway – The In-Town Solution
by Marcia Hafner
old jalopy is in intensive care. Without wheels you can’t
get out of town for a hike. In the dead of winter, cabin
fever is at a high pitch. You’ve got to get out of
the house for some vigorous exercise before you go stark
There is a solution to this dilemma. It’s called
The Mill Creek Parkway, a three-mile walkway that lets
you take a traffic-free brisk walk, jog or bicycle ride
within walking distance of downtown Moab. By being able
to access the trail at many different points throughout
town, you can eliminate the winter drive. It saves on the
gas bill and is handy for a quick stroll or workout during
the lunch break.
The trail begins at Rotary Park, which is crammed full
of kid-oriented activities. On a sunny day the air rings
with the laughter of young ones playing on the swings,
sliding boards and jungle gyms. They, and even the adults,
can’t resist creating their own symphonies on the
giant xylophones known as “free notes.” The
xylophone on top of an ore car would be particularly hard
to resist. There’s a storybook wooden animal carved
out of a huge dead tree along with tree benches and forts.
One of my favorites is the swinging wooden bench.
get to Rotary Park, go south on Main Street and take a
left on to Center Street (at the Moab Information Center.)
Follow Center Street to 400 East and take a right. Continue
on 400 East for five blocks and go left at Dave’s
Corner Market on to Mill Creek Drive. Parking for Rotary
Park is on the right hand side across from the Red Rock
Rotary Park, however, isn’t just for children. It’s
meant for the enjoyment of all ages. For the gathering
of friends or family there are plenty of picnic tables
and grills just waiting to be used. For those theatrically
inclined a large amphitheater offers the opportunity for
group performances. A few steps from the amphitheater you
can enjoy the native plants of the Butterfly Garden, which
is maintained by the Moab Bird Club. On a hot summer afternoon
I come here to relax with a book in the idyllic shade of
the large cottonwoods and ponderosas.
Mill Creek Parkway starts at the bridge at the west end
of the park. Cottonwoods, hackberry, silver leaf poplars
and catalpas line the paved walkway. Several side spurs
allow you to walk close to the creek. Listening to the
chatter of magpies, ravens and chickadees you almost forget
you are walking through the middle of town. If you’re
extremely lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of some
wood ducks or a screech owl.
The Dan O’Laurie Museum has created an outdoor collection
of antique mining and farming equipment. During your walk
you’ll pass by vintage ore cars, “one-man mockers,” threshers
and plows. You can also enjoy the imaginative murals painted
on the walls of two of the underpasses.
past the 400 East underpass you’ll stroll by the
historic Shafer House. Built in 1884, it is the oldest
home standing in Moab and is officially listed in the National
Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service.
The original owner, John Henry Shafer organized the local
government of Moab and served as a Grand County Commissioner.
In the early 1890’s he was named a school board trustee
and became instrumental in getting the first schoolhouse
started by lending the funds interest free. His obituary
referred to him as “the Father of the Grand County
The final owner was Richard Le Roy Holyoak. He and his
wife Sarah lived on the property for thirty years and it
became known as the Holyoak Farmstead. For more in depth
information, go read the sign in front of the house.
Next to the high school is the Youth Garden. It originally
began as a program offered by the Juvenile Court for youth
to work off court-ordered community service hours. It has
expanded to offer classes in science, gardening and outdoor
education. In 2007 twelve high school students built The
Nibble Garden as part of their Garden Science/Natural Resource
Management Class. During the growing season the public
is invited to stop and nibble on yellow pear tomatoes,
currant tomatoes and edible flowers. In the future look
for strawberries, peas, snap beans and raspberries.
Almost to 300 South Street, there is an Arbor Day Grove
with the sign “See if you can find all the trees.” Twenty-six
species with photos are listed. Most of them were planted
on Arbor Day, 1999.
underpass gets you safely past Main Street and on to 200
South where an immediate left takes you over the bridge.
To stay on the trail take a sharp right on to the dirt
path. A short side spur to the left goes to The Hospice
Garden Memorial, which has been set aside by the Grand
County Hospice. It is a rock-lined, lovingly cared for
garden with a white stone plaque listing loved ones who
have died under Hospice Care.
Between Main St. and 500 West the vegetation is a mixture
of cottonwoods, tamarisk and Russian olive. There is one
footbridge across Pack Creek, which received its name from
packs cached near the creek by the William D. Huntington
and Jackson Stewart trading-exploration expedition in1854.
After 500 West, the final, newest developed section goes
into a more primitive area called The Anonymous Park. This
far down the trail, the crowd has dwindled and the thick
vegetation cuts out most signs of civilization leaving
the hiker with a sense of privacy and solitude.
So the next time you can’t get out of town, don’t
pout. Instead enjoy a country in-town walk on the Mill
Soil Crust (aka)
Cryptos (krip’ tose):
of Moab’s desert is held together by a
thin skin of living organisms known as cryptobiotic
soil or cryptos. It has a lumpy black appearance,
is very fragile, and takes decades to heal when
it has been damaged. This soil is a critical
part of the survival of the desert. The cryptobiotic
organisms help to stabilize the soil, hold moisture,
and provide protection for germination of the
seeds of other plants. Without it the dry areas
of the west would be much different. Although
some disturbance is normal and helps the soil
to capture moisture, excessive disturbance by
hooves, bicycle tires and hiking boots has been
shown to destroy the cryptobiotic organisms and
their contribution to the soil. When you walk
around Moab avoid crushing the cryptos. Stay
on trails, walk in washes, hop from stone to
stone. Whatever it takes, don’t crunch
the cryptos unless you absolutely have to!