Barker Dam Parking Lot Expansion Project
Expanding the Barker Dam parking lot involves converting two undeveloped disturbed islands in the interior of the parking lots into parking spaces. The total areas of the islands is approximately 11,000 square feet. The project would be phased, with the first phase converting the islands into a dirt surface by saw cutting and removing the curb line, clearing vegetation and organic material, and then capping the area with 3" of road base. As funding becomes available, the parking area would receive additional base preparation and would be eventually be paved with asphalt. When completed, an additional 40 parking spaces would be available. The vegetation clearing would require the relocation of 13 Joshua trees to an area adjacent to the parking area.
The protection of affected Joshua trees ((Yucca brevifolia) is an important component of this project. Joshua trees recently (9/22/20) received candidate status under the California Endangered Species Act. Under the federal Endangered Species Act, they do not have special status, but for JTNP, their survival and conservation is paramount to the park's mission.
Why is the project necessary
JTNP can have over 4,000 vehicles entering the park per day during peak season, vying for only ~1,500 parking spots. The formal parking spots in use today at JTNP were developed in the 1990s and are undersized for the number of vehicles entering the times of high visitation. Recent management guidance documents (Foundation Document Jan. 2015) recommend the park expand parking to address aging and inadequate infrastructure and reduce resource conflicts.
Visitors are vying for limited parking spaces, and when parking lots fill, vehicles spill over into illegal, off-road parking areas where there is little or no shoulder to accommodate parking. Parking off-road or on inadequate shoulders causes an ever-expanding disturbance footprint on fragile native desert habitat. Off-road parking results in social trailing and resource damage, and pedestrians on unsafe roadways as visitors walk from their vehicles to their destinations. In addition, park staff are routinely dispatched to high congested parking areas to manage the gridlock and maintain safe conditions and emergency access. Park staff can get diverted for hours a day, taking away from their ability to perform other job functions.
Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP) is seeking public review and comment before making a decision to expand the Barker Dam Parking Lot. After public review and comment, the park will address substantive comments before making a decision to move forward on the project.