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Tourists and Townies Beat the Dog Days On Mill Creek Parkway
by Kathy Grossman

Yes, it’s hot. July and August in Moab can bring temperatures into triple digits. But a refreshing, leafy walk awaits you along Mill Creek Parkway, bookended by Rotary Park and 100 West. The parkway is a snapshot of Moab’s history, modernization, ecological diversity, and community energy within roughly two miles of walkway. This August is also the one-year anniversary of the epic floods that swept sand, brush, trees, and other debris into town. Various portions of our parkway, including underpasses at 400 East and 200 South, have only recently been opened back up. As of this writing, City of Moab workers are still working along the Main Street underpass on weekdays, though this section of parkway opens on weekends. If that plan changes, please obey all signs, barricades, and caution tapes.

On a recent morning of blue skies and puffy, Maynard Dixon clouds, I park in the lot above Moab Rotary Park. (You can also choose the lower-level lot or the parking area up top next to the colorfully painted public restroom.) Rotary Park is a quiet, shady, three-acre oasis with pavilions and grills, plus a children’s playground. At the east end are sets of large percussive instruments, created by Freenotes Harmony Park, a company owned by former Moabite Richard Cooke. Beyond the musical playground is a bee garden, sports court, and amphitheater. You may be surprised to learn that Moab was designated a Tree City in 1993. Moab isn’t all red rock and bike trails. Our parkway follows the riparian corridor in the shade of Fremont cottonwoods, catalpa, hackberry, silver-leaf poplar, and Russian olive trees, some delightful relief from the heat. The mulberries have pretty much dried up by now, so you can walk beneath morus rubus without so much squishing.

Leaving Rotary Park via one of Mill Creek’s several footbridges, I walk along the creek, then descend the ramp into the underpass at 400 East and approach the grounds of the Youth Garden Project whose mission is to connect people to food “from seed to table.” I pull out some quarters to buy handfuls of chicken scratch to toss over the fence to the excited hens. Along another leafy corridor, I pass the middle and high schools and reach the Bark Park that provides sandy play spaces for small and larger dogs. Just outside the Bark Park is a small group of trees and a plaque memorializing four teenagers who drowned in the Colorado River on a December morning in 1994. Several other names were added to the plaque by the time the marker was dedicated in 1999.

Continuing through an underpass beneath 200 South past the vet’s office, I cross another footbridge opening onto a bicycle playground, Robin Groff Memorial Park, with ramps and humps for practicing bike skills. Groff had envisioned Moab’s future as a mountain biking destination. Turning left (west), I head for Main Street and enter the Moab Diner to get a waffle cone of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Prize in hand, I then stand on the overpass watching City workmen shoring up the embankments next to Woody’s Tavern. Crossing Main, I then walk south around Hogan Trading Company, admiring the whirligigs and checking progress on the creek repair.

The official paved parkway ends just west of Hogan’s at the elbow of 100 South and 100 West, with more parking slots for parkway access. Now you’ll have some options: cross south on the footbridge into another leafy Moab neighborhood, turn around and walk back to your car, or continue back down to the creek and walk west along a sandy byway that skirts Mill Creek’s confluence with Pack Creek. This waterway then flows under 500 West and on into the Colorado River. Whichever option you choose, Mill Creek Parkway celebrates everything from huge trees to rushing water to inspiring artwork to a shady respite. And that’s very cool indeed.

Parkway underpass artwork Rotary gazebo and instruments Walking down into Rotary Park

Kathy Grossman

Kathy Grossman is a writer and artist who lives between Pack and Mill Creeks.
Growing up in the shadow of a 31 Flavors shop in southern California,
she grew to depend on mint chocolate chip cones. She’s lived in Moab since 2011.

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