Winter Olympic Games
For decades the Division of Parks and Recreation desired to develop the extreme southern part of Wasatch Mountain State Park, commonly known as Soldier Hollow. This area had, since the beginning of the state park system, been used primarily for agriculture because the Division had neither the funding nor the political backing to develop the area for public outdoor recreation. This site was frequently looked upon as a desirable location for a future golf course and, in fact, was the focus of several attempts by private investors for development.
The most serious of these attempts was the Deer Run planned development in the early 1990’s. It was proposed by the developers that the Division deed to the project 4,000 acres of prime land in return for an 18-hole public golf course to be developed by Deer Run and deeded to the Division. The developer would then build another private 18-hole course, hotels and condominiums on what was state park property. The Board of State Parks and Recreation held public meetings to receive comments and the people in the neighboring communities were greatly opposed. The proposal was denied in a unanimous vote of the Board. The difficulty for the Division with this proposal originally was the support it received from the Governor himself. Later, after public hearings were held, the Governor publicly supported the vote of the Board.
This experience caused great alarm within the Division of Parks and Recreation, to the extent that money had to be found to develop the Soldier Hollow area for future protection from private developers. Along came the Olympic bid acceptance for Salt Lake City and the search for a biathlon and cross-country ski venue. Soldier Hollow was the perfect fit. Athletes liked the site for various reasons and because it was a state park, the guarantee of a future training site for U.S. athletes was assured.
The Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) provided approximately $17 million in the development of infrastructure (roads, electricity, culinary and secondary water systems, sewer, buildings, etc.). The Legislature provided another $700,000 for the day lodge facility. The development provided the base for launching the first opportunity for major public recreation enhancement in Soldier Hollow. Because of this investment by SLOC, the Division was able to procure funding from the Legislature via a $12 million revenue bond to complete the recreation scheme with a 36-hole golf complex. The bottom line was a multiple use, multiple season (winter and summer) complex that rivals anything in the State of Utah, public or private, for very little state investment. This was the economic and political coup of the century for the State Park Division.
Statehood Centennial Celebration
The centennial celebration commemorating Utah’s statehood took place in 1996. Governor Leavitt started off the celebration with a Governor’s Ball at Territorial Statehouse State Park, in memory of the old territorial capital in Fillmore. The Governor appointed a Centennial Committee to plan and oversee activities and money was made available to help sponsor this celebration.
Governor’s Trails Initiative
Late in the Leavitt administration the Governor developed the idea of a Statewide Trails Initiative that would incorporate both motorized and non-motorized trail systems throughout the state. This was conceived as a “legacy” project of the Leavitt administration and was mentioned in the Governor’s State of the State address. The Division took immediate steps to comply with this initiative and proceeded to hold regional public meetings throughout the state to gain information concerning potential trail sites, and discuss issues from private groups, public officials and the general public. A trails “tool kit” was devised and several regional planning efforts were coordinated to find the best solutions to the many problems that were exposed.
The Division invested over $40,000 in this planning effort in anticipation of being reimbursed when funding in new budget requests were approved. Unfortunately, the Office of Planning and Budget recommended no funding that year, or in any subsequent year to offset the costs already incurred by the Division. Although the Governor appeared to have put the issue on the back burner, the impetus was already there and the work went forward.
An eight-member steering committee completed an eight-month public participation and planning process and partnership. The committee and participating user, federal, state park, managers and the Institute for Outdoor Recreation and Tourism performed a statewide opinion survey in the fall of 2000 and 2001. At least 16 major objectives were revealed and articulated. These included:
- Improved quality of life, business growth and vitality
- Achieve closer collaboration with the Utah Department of Transportation and developers in planning, developing and connecting urban and rural trails systems
- Provide trails/paths within 15 minute of each home and business.
- Collaborate with the Alliance for Cardiovascular Health, Community Fitness program to measure and assess physical and mental benefits of trails, paths and associated leisure activities
- Identify at least three priority trail projects in each planning region; i.e., Bonneville Shoreline Trail, Ogden Centennial Trail, Provo-Jordan River Parkway Trail, Oquirrh Crest/Bonneville Shoreline trail, Arapeen OHV trail, Colorado River/Moab Regional Trail System, Three Rivers Trail System (Washington County)
- Protect cultural values and ensure education of trail users
- Provide technical assistance for trail development, and match funding when allocated by the Legislature.
Governor’s Initiative for Electronic Highway (Wide Area Network)
One of the most dynamic initiatives of the Leavitt administration, at least insofar as the impact upon the Division of Parks and Recreation, was the Electronic Highway, or Wide Area Network (WAN). This initiative was implemented in 1995 and covered every state office in every corner of the state. Each agency was directed to be online with the WAN and enter a new age of communication.
Although this was a wonderful idea, there was poor planning and no funding recommended for the individual agencies to fulfill this goal. In the Division of Parks and Recreation at the time of the initiative, there were many parks that didn’t have a single computer new enough to operate the more sophisticated programs for linkage to a WAN. The Division was forced to put off critical facility repairs in order to comply with this initiative. As a result, thirty-five parks received new computers capable of functioning in a wide area network environment and many existing computers were upgraded and modified to function under these conditions.
Unfortunately, the Division had no position on its staff or in the budget for a computer technician to install equipment and provide the routers and linkage to the WAN. This created some serious problems for the Division. Furthermore, many of the parks are located in areas where no telephone lines exist and this created even greater problems. It took years and tens of thousands of unbudgeted dollars to eventually link these parks via satellite and some wireless systems.
Expanding Facilities and Activities Within State Parks
Many states had experimented with yurts, cabins and other non-traditional facilities within their state parks and had experienced a mixed level of success. Based on these experiences, the Division of Parks and Recreation embarked on providing these same types of facilities, on a limited basis, at several state parks.
Yurts were added to Rockport, Wasatch Mountain and East Canyon State Parks, not just for public rental but also for use by concessionaires and as offices and training facilities. At Bear Lake and Kodachrome Basin State Parks, concessionaires were allowed to build cabins and charge a reasonable fee, from which the Division receives a percentage. These have all proven to be very successful and will continue in future development strategies.