Utahraptor State Park To Open In 2023: Managers Still Tweaking Designs To Stay On Budget News

The designation of Utahraptor State Park in 2021 has answered the wishes of many local and state advocates who are hoping for better management of a piece of state-owned land north of Moab. The land contains valuable resources like dinosaur fossils, historic sites, and recreational opportunities, but overexploitation by campers and visitors has damaged the area.

The Utah State Parks Division is working to develop Utahraptor State Park and become operational in 2023. At the December 21 meeting of the Grand County Commission, Megan Blackwelder, Regional Director of Southeastern Utah for the Utah State Parks Division, and Joshua Hansen, park manager and only current employee of Utahraptor State Park, provided an update on the progress of the new Park.

Limits and developments

Through a purchase of land by the Utah State Parks Division from the Land Administration of the Utah School and Institutional Trust and a licensing agreement with the Forestry, Fire and Wildlife Division. Land in the state of Utah, the park boundaries cover 7,466 acres. The park is located in the Willow Springs / Dalton Wells area north of Moab and primarily east of Highway 191; the southwest corner of the park crosses the west side of the road.

Bill 257, which designated both Utahraptor State Park and Lost Creek State Park in Morgan County, allocated $ 36.5 million to renovate and develop the two parks; $ 7.5 million of the funding has been allocated to purchase land for Utahraptor State Park.

The funding available will not be sufficient to completely build the park according to the first designs. An initial vision included two developed campgrounds, each with between 40 and 60 sites. Hansen said he and other planners wanted to make sure the campgrounds are built to a high standard and chose to focus on building the first one, the Willow Springs Campground, which will have electrical hookups, a table picnic area, shade structure and fire ring at each site. There will also be flush toilets and showers as well as an RV dump station.

Hansen said major improvements to the Dalton Wells Campground will have to wait until a later date when the park can secure more funding. For now, Dalton Wells Campground will remain pristine, although the surface is hardened and there will be designated campsites. There will be no scattered camping within the boundaries of the park.

A visitor center with an indoor interpretation section will be built next to an improved highway entrance / exit. There will not be a full-fledged museum, but there will be exhibits discussing the importance of the park’s paleontological resources, as well as a historic site used to house the Civilian Conservation Corps and later to hold the Japanese -Americans in an isolation center in the 1940s. Grand County and the non-profit association Utah Friends of Paleontology will help fund the exhibitions. There will also be a small gift shop.

“This will give us the opportunity to present the reasons why Utahraptor State Park was designated in the first place,” said Blackwelder.

Blackwelder and Hansen noted that staff at the state park entrance gate will be able to give visitors information and messages regarding other land management agencies whose properties are accessible through the state park. . Those entering the park to access areas owned by other entities, such as the BLM or the National Park Service, will be allowed to cross for free.

The first phase of construction will also include housing for park employees. As of now, Hansen is the only employee; he said it is not yet known how many more employees will be hired, or when. The park will need staff to operate the visitor center, patrol and perform maintenance.

So far, a 1,600-foot well has been drilled to supply the park. Hansen said the water will need to be treated to make it drinkable; a reverse osmosis system will be installed on site.

Manage current state

To complete the full improvement of the Dalton Wells Campground, Utahraptor will ask the state legislature to allocate more money to the project. In the meantime, Hansen said he was doing his best to mitigate the impacts of overexploited areas and regulate camp sites.

“Right now people are driving as far off the road as possible,” said Hansen. “There are some places people camp that are just plain ridiculous. It’s growing exponentially, every year people find new places.

Scattered camping in the area was a growing concern for the community of Moab, with the build-up of trash and human waste and vehicle tracks damaging vegetation and soil. It is hoped that the creation of the park, in addition to providing another attraction for the many visitors to Moab, will regulate the use of the area and enable restoration.

Starting this spring, a camping fee of $ 10 will be implemented in the area to help cover the costs of the portable toilets and dumpsters that have been provided. Hansen said during the peak seasons of spring and fall, the facilities need to be emptied and cleaned twice a week. The cost of this maintenance is significant. The fees for this spring and summer will be collected through an “iron guard,” a strong unmanned expense fund.

The park also includes approximately 50 miles of trails, many of which are part of the Sovereign Trail System for bikes and motor vehicles. Hansen said during construction he will walk, map and assess the trails to determine their durability and safety and whether they should be kept open. He predicts that for the most part they will be acceptable. For now, all of these trails remain open.

Blackwelder and Hansen said the park will be operational in 2023 and will charge a separate, as yet undetermined fee for daytime use and camping. A tax note included with HB 257 says entrance fees could go up to $ 25 and camping fees up to $ 40; he estimates the annual operating costs of the two parks, once operational, at $ 698,000 and annual revenues at $ 798,500.

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