Development and Maintenance Backlog
Under the Leavitt/Walker administrations, the Division adopted two forward looking strategic planning efforts, Frontiers 2000 initiated in 1996, and more recently, Vision 2010, initiated in early 2004. Both these documents identified the need for the Division to step up previously identified issues regarding deferred maintenance and capital development. With the advent of the 1990s, approximately thirty years after an initial investment in facilities and infrastructure, the Division found itself attempting to meet the needs of an expanding visitor base with an inventory of facilities rapidly reaching the end of their useful life.
In the late 1990s, Division leadership, working in partnership with the Division of Facilities, Construction, and Management (DFCM) undertook a comprehensive, system-wide survey of the Division’s facilities maintenance needs. Their efforts revealed that there was a $70 million backlog of maintenance and development needs. At the same time, annual funding for maintenance averaged about $2 to $3 million from various sources. Maintenance and improvements issues ranged from ensuring day-to-day visitor health and safety to addressing the evolving recreation needs of an increasing visitor base.
As the demand for maintenance funding greatly exceeded available funding, Division maintenance efforts were analogous to medical “triage” whereby facilities requiring attention to maintain visitor health and safety received top priority. DFCM delegated its maintenance authority to the Division on the condition that Parks meet mandated maintenance standards. The ongoing delegation of this authority is indicative of the resourcefulness and skills of Division managers and maintenance personnel to maintain facilities to acceptable standards in light of scarce resources.
Capital Funding Resources
Closely related to deferred maintenance was the need to expand and replace the Division’s capital facilities during the Leavitt/Walker years. With the advent of the Utah State Parks system in 1957, the Division initiated major infrastructure development programs during the 1960s. Much of this development occurred in large parks such as Wasatch Mountain, Utah Lake, Bear Lake, and Dead Horse Point. By the 1990s, much of this infrastructure was reaching the end of its useful life. In addition, changing trends in recreation use necessitated a rethinking about facility design. For example, campgrounds that once adequately met the needs of small campers or trailers of 1960s vintage could no longer accommodate the larger units that became “standard” in the 1990s. Likewise, with the rapid growth in Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) use, emerging visitor preferences for interpretive experiences, and rapid growth in demand for large group camping experiences, the State Park system of the 1990s was faced with a whole new set of facilities and infrastructure needs.
To meet these needs, the Division entered partnerships with federal, state, and local agencies such as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, DFCM, county governments, and cities and towns to raise and leverage capital facilities funding. Again, with funding needs exceeding available resources, and in light of keen competition with other capital facilities demands for other state agencies, the Division was able to forge ahead with many significant capital development projects through careful planning and fruitful partnerships.