Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics & Public Service

Project Prologue

Frontiers 2000: A System Plan to Guide Utah State Parks and Recreation into the 21st Century

This was a very broad-based participative process that helped refine the RMP process subsequently for individual state park comprehensive plans.  It provided a background and history of the system from 1957, statutory justification, a mission and vision statement, a conceptual framework for the discussion and proposed specific actions to accomplish goals and objectives.  Members of the Park Board, park users, park staff, DNR, federal land managers, BYU graduate school scholars and others participated in the project: over 200 persons were involved.  The plan was used to formulate and justify state park budgets and proposed legislation and represented a State Park System Plan.

The plan outlined 15 major issues and 124 important recommendations.  Of the 15 major issues, “funding” (a reliable source of funding to implement the planning process) was deemed the highest priority issue.  Important partnerships were formed with Utah Parks and Recreation Association, the Nature Conservancy, Utah Open Lands, Utah Recreational Trails Advisory Council, Marine Dealers Association, the Trust for Public Lands, Governors Office of Planning and Budget, Utah Travel Council and other State Park users.

Foundational values for State Parks included: Customer service and satisfaction, Protect and sustain park resources, Assure quality of life through programs and facilities, Work for employee satisfaction, Strive for effectiveness and efficiency, Improve the statewide economy, Ensure public participation in planning and management, Ensure collaborative partnerships to improve the outdoor recreation estate in Utah

SCORP State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan

Several SCORP have been published since 1992; i.e. 1992 Utah SCORP: Utah State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, Utah Division of Parks and Recreation, Salt Lake City, 1993, 408 pp., et al.; and State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan 2003 State of Utah, Utah Division of Parks and Recreation, Salt Lake City, 2003, pp. 105 (www.stateparks.utah.gov)

The SCORP, or state comprehensive outdoor recreation plan, is a federally-mandated planning and management tool that must be prepared by the participating states to qualify for federally allocated Land & Water Conservation Funds (P.L. 88-578).  Over $86 million has been allocated to the state of Utah since the mid 1960s, with over 435 state and local projects funded, pursuant to the needs and objectives cited in the SCORP and local facility planning.  A new SCORP is researched and published every 5 to 10 years (if extensions are granted, and Congress funds the program) by the state to qualify for these important matching grants.

Local government has submitted the majority of projects.  Antelope Island was purchased with special “Secretary Contingency Funds” for high priority acquisition projects.  Wasatch Mountain State Park’s golf courses were so funded, parcels of land acquired, and landscaping accomplished.  Murray City and St. George Swimming Pools were funded, along with parks and trails.  Ball diamonds were developed in large and smaller communities statewide, along with tennis courts, restrooms, sprinkling systems landscaping, trails, paths, restrooms, vehicle parking and other leisure amenities.

Prior to 1992, less than 15% of LWCF program participants had their own comprehensive park plans.  By 2003, over 70% had quality plans for their individual park systems.  This resulted in higher quality park projects that enjoyed broad public support.  This also reflected Governor Leavitt’s En Libra philosophy and program that encouraged a more “balanced approach to resource decisions,” thus emphasizing public and local input to land use policy and planning.  In addition:

·        SCORP user surveys documented that rural areas stressed the need for renovation of facilities; whereas urban areas expressed greater needs for new and expanded facilities to match enormous population increases for the state with the youngest average population in the U.S.

·        There was a tremendous increase in volunteerism, in view of unique needs for 2002 Olympics, and new programs in state and local parks, as well as National Parks and Forests.

·        Public participants had great concerns about losing historical access to the states’ waters and wild lands, tying up public lands and waters by closing access and asserting ownership of banks, shorelines, river and lake bottoms, and flood plains.

·        Cooperation with the Alliance for Cardiovascular Health and Physical Activity (2002, Environmental Health, state of Utah), helped document significant health cost savings by providing trails and facilities for redemptive and rehabilitative activities associated with open spaces, paths, trails and facilities; i.e., quantitative value of recreation facilities from health cost savings perspective.

·        2003 documented that over 250,000 visitors came to Utah during the 2002 Olympics; 35,000 jobs were developed from 1996 to 2002; over $56 million in revenues during the same period for the state of Utah; over $20.4 million came to local government; and Wasatch Mountain State Park—Soldier Hollow had the largest venue with many events and large expansion of public facilities for winter and summer usage (2003 Utah SCORP, p. 76-77).

·        Over 21 major funding and designation bills were listed from 1996 through 2002 to enhance and assist leisure programs and services; e.g., $12 million bond (sb 65, 2991) for Soldier Hollow golf course and club house; HB 62 (2000) to set aside additional monies for park and facility replacement and renovation; Bonneville Shoreline Trail Funding, HB 108, 1999 as matching grant for trails. (2003, Utah SCORP, p. 74-75).

·        The non-motorized Trails Grant Program listed over 93 matching grant projects from 1997 to 2002 for over $2.81 million dollars.  44 Projects were on federal lands; local governments sponsored 47 projects; and 2 projects were sponsored by Utah State Parks.  These included trails, bridges, restrooms, paving, tunnel, a yurt or gher (Mongolian) tent-like structure, warming huts and signage.

·        The Utah River way Enhancement program, established in 1986 expanded the Provo-Jordan River Parkway program.  From 1995 through 2002, 78 projects have been funded for a total of $3.675 million dollars.  The program was a comprehensive program to protect private and public lands from floods, protect water quality flowing into stream systems, provide education and scientific opportunities, protect wetlands and critical species, and enhance private and public property values. (2003 Utah SCORP, p. 47)

Partnership for Resource Conservation & Recreation: Network Research Report

Bailey Political Consulting was contracted to perform a broad statewide outdoor recreation survey that would be responsive to geographically disparate areas of the state, with a large number of recreation resource users. The effort was part of the “Partnership for Resource Conservation and Recreation and utilized two years and involved over 138 citizens and stakeholders statewide, in seven planning districts.  The following is a summary of findings in the report:

·        Fear, concern and hope for the future.  There was great appreciation for existing resources and facilities, but concern for the impacts of massive development and loss of public access to the states’ outstanding resources.

·        Concerns were expressed for the unknown impacts of the 2002 Olympics, especially along the Wasatch Front: a lesser degree of concern in rural areas of Utah.

·        Education, cooperation and the free flow of information to all parties was emphasized, especially where activities competed for similar resources.

·        Facilities and programs were seen as important tools to overcome gang problems and other antisocial (gangs) activities of concern.

·        All participants wanted to be heard early in the planning and budgetary programs, state and local.

·        Rural folks often felt left out, perceiving most of the action in urban areas.

·        Growth was seen as out of control. Participants saw little in the way of planning coordination, resulting in foreclosed leisure and recreation opportunities.  More localized controls are needed; i.e., closer to the people.

·        Most preferred minimal taxes and more user fees.  Property taxes on recreation equipment are not being used to improve facilities and resources; i.e., used by the counties for many other purposes.

·        More trails needed in urban areas or connection from urban to wild land areas.

Findings from this Report were included in federal Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) priorities for local and state projects submitted to the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation for 50% matching grants.  Other State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) data were also used to select the highest priority outdoor recreation projects for federal funding.


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Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service