Although operation and maintenance funds were very tight during the Leavitt/Walker years there was a significant growth in Utah’s recreation estate through the addition of several new state parks and/or facilities.
A little used section of Wasatch Mountain State Park called Soldier Hollow was chosen as the venue for the Biathlon and Cross Country Skiing events for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. After the conclusion games, the Utah State Park System was left with a Day Lodge, a Competition Building, biathlon and cross country skiing facilities and all the infrastructures needed for recreation development in this once remote section of the Park.
The Division of Parks and Recreation used this opportunity to provide additional recreational facilities to the Park. The decision was made to keep the winter competition facilities available for training, competition, and exposure to the activities that took place at this venue during the Olympics. Snow tubing was added as an additional winter activity under a concession agreement with a private company.
The Legislature and Governor allowed State Parks to take advantage of this opportunity to develop a beautiful and unique golfing experience by bonding to build a 36-hole golf course, which never would have been feasible without the infrastructure left from the Olympics.
This course in a somewhat lower elevation than the rest of Wasatch Mountain State Park has allowed people to play golf earlier in the spring and later in the fall. The golf course, although new, has received a lot of attention nationally.
As the Washington County Water Conservancy District (WCWCD) planned a new reservoir to provide water for this rapidly growing desert area of the state, they contacted State Parks to see if we would be interested in partnering with them to provide recreational opportunities associated with this new water impoundment in this hot and dry area of the state.
The Division facilitated a planning process that culminated in the addition of another partner (the BLM) who managed a 20,000-acre Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) riding area on adjacent land. The process also created a Resource Management Plan that included a development plan. This plan called for recreation facilities for both water and land based activities. This plan also recommended that State Parks would be the agency best suited to manage the new park.
Although at the time of the proposal the Division was in the process of carrying out a directive from the Governor and Legislature to close parks, this seemed to be an opportunity that could not be passed up. The WCWCD offered $2,300,000 to be matched by both Parks and BLM. Through the pooling of all the divisions development funds for a 3-year period Parks was able to make its match. In order to get the support of the Governor and the Legislature parks committed to raising all the operational costs through user fees. The BLM’s match was provided by a special rider on a federal bill championed by Senator Bob Bennett.
The facilities identified in the development section of the RMP continue to carried out in 2008.
This park with its location near other state and national parks, the long use season allowed by the Dixie climate, and the variety of recreational uses in the park has proven to be one of Utah’s most popular parks.
New Utah Field House of Natural History in Vernal
A partnership with Uinta County, Vernal City, the National Park Service and Utah State Parks led to raising funds to construct a new Natural Resource Museum and Paleontology facility at a new location in Vernal. This was to be on property donated by the county. The old building was given to the city of Vernal. This was an excellent example of all levels of government working together for a common goal. The result of this effort was a modern state of the art facility meeting the needs of the community and all levels of Government. This partnership in development also continues in 2008.