Development Projects

Living Without Cars in Moab, Utah

A community of residents in Moab, Utah lives without a street and instead lives on pathways not wide enough for cars.


Photos by Richard Markosian.

Moab’s Millcreek Parkway: A Story for Locals Only

While vacationing in Moab last month, we found another example of how Grand County residents take ownership of their community. Moabites pride themselves on thinking differently and living deliberately with the notion that closer contact with nature should not entail driving to a destination, but that nature should be integrated into their lifestyle.

The Mill Creek trail has become an artery for the integration of community, nature and growing organic community food. It’s a case study for what can be done when enough “stakeholders” come together who want to create a special place for walkers to experience nature.

We stayed at the Rustic Inn, which has a parking lot that feeds into the Mill Creek trail. On our first evening in town, we walked east to the school and were greeted by signs reading, “Sensory and Snack Garden”, inviting visitors to “taste, touch and smell.” The garden offered fresh, tall kale, corn and tomatoes. The large, flourishing vegetables demonstrate that the gardeners take their work seriously and know what they are doing.

Further east, we walk under giant cottonwoods and silverleaf poplars beside Mill Creek. On our left is a dirt road with park benches. On our right is an asphalt trail for bikers. We see walkers, bikers, and a few homeless people and day campers.

The trail continues through another cottonwood grove to a bridge to the park, but also a community of residents who live without a street, and instead live on pathways not wide enough for cars. There are no garages in front of homes, no curb and gutters, just a five-foot wide path. This allows space for bigger herb and flower gardens, orchards and desert plants. It’s so quiet that the sound of the Mill Creek stream becomes dominant.

The homes are on small lots, but it doesn’t feel small. Dwellings range from small cabins to modern two-stories, but most are under 1,500 square feet. Still, nothing about this community feels “small”. In fact, the landscape feels expansive. The front porches face the small walkways and the back porches facing Mill Creek offer a 360-degree-view of nature. There is a community parking garage for residents’ belongings and cars.

We visit the parks and off-shoots and explore them all. On our second visit I see a resident who has her electric bicycle loaded with groceries. Kids who live here can easily walk down the path to Grand County High School and never encounter an intersection with cars. I realize that they want to keep this all a secret, but Salt Lake City residents should see how it can be done!

The trail further north leads to a big park with picnic tables and grass. The school is surrounded by fields and grass. We followed the trail down into town our last evening and it led to the Moab Community Outdoor Theater, where there are food trucks and live music from a country folk band.

During our two days in Moab, we decided to take a vacation from our car. What’s wrong with hanging around town and walking around? Our six-year-old aspiring Tony Hawk on his skateboard loved it. We didn’t really miss Arches National Park crowds. We did Moab like the locals.

According to Moab Sun News, 18 Moab residents have formed Mill Creek Community Collaborative, where Moab’s Mill Creek stakeholders are working to preserve the trails (about six miles with all spurs included) as well as the waterfall at the far north of Mill Creek called Powerdam. They are ensuring that the booming tourism population keeps quiet (passing a noise ordinance on UTVs) and maintains the trails and vegetation. From what we can see, they are doing an excellent job.

Another conservation group called Rim to Rim Restoration has worked to ensure that the Mill Creek trail keeps all of its indiginious species of plants to attract wildlife. Their efforts certainly seem to be working as we saw many deer, who didn’t seem to mind people sharing the path. Moab locals are indeed doing some great work.

Whatever you do, don’t share this story with tourists. Local efforts are designed to “keep the amenities and trail a secret.”

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