Project underway to save the orchards of Capitol Reef National Park


Volunteers will replant the original orchards in Capitol Reef National Park to preserve them. (Alex Cabrero, KSL-TV)

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CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK — When it comes to backbreaking work, Robert Marc jokes that he didn’t really have a choice.

“The Queen said we were going to plant trees, and I always say yes,” Marc said.

His wife may have told him what he was doing that day.

“And she’s always right,” he laughed.

However, Marc says he would have been here anyway, digging in the hard ground, because he cares.

“Oh, absolutely. Absolutely,” he said. “And the same goes for all these other people.

Most earth diggers live just outside of Capitol Reef National Park. So when they learned that volunteers were needed to replant some of the orchards in the park, the decision was easy.

“You have to give them a name to be loved,” one woman said with a laugh. “We all know their names.”

This is a project that took years in the planning.

“The mission of the National Park Service is to preserve and protect our natural and cultural resources,” said Shauna Cotrell, acting chief interpreter at Capitol Reef National Park.

There are many natural resources to protect here.

Capitol Reef is well known for its rock formations. The orchards, 19 in number in the park, are part of the culture of the region to be protected.

“From the variety of Indigenous people who called this place home, to the modern history of Latter-day Saint pioneers and the orchards they planted here,” Cotrell said.

In recent decades, however, park workers estimate that around a thousand trees have been lost due to age, disease or poor ground conditions.

This project aims to restore the orchards to good health.

Capitol Reef is the only national park in Utah where visitors can purchase fruit from these trees.

The fruit pies sold at the park often sell out quickly.

This agricultural heritage is a big part of the park’s mission to protect, even though it is part of our heritage that is slowly being lost elsewhere.

“We are increasingly becoming an urban society on a global scale,” Cotrell said. “Having a place where people can go out and feel that connection allows people to experience farming, a rural way of life that many perhaps can’t anymore.”

It will take a few years for these new baby trees to produce fruit.

For Marc, it will make them even sweeter. Just like his wife.

“If others like it, that’s wonderful. But I plant them for myself,” he laughed.


Alex Cabrero

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