Investing in the Future of Outdoor Recreation – Exciting Changes Coming to Utah State Parks
July 8, 2021
SALT LAKE CITY — With a 33% increase in state park visitation compared to the previous year (that’s over 2.66 million!) the 2020 recreation season was truly one for the record books.
With no signs of slowing down, Utah is making an unprecedented investment into our beautiful state park system. Expanding facilities and amenities is one way Utah State Parks is highlighting our commitment to quality outdoor recreation areas.
In the 2021 Legislative Session, Utah State Parks was appropriated nearly $120 million to go toward our facilities and infrastructure. This money will directly fund the creation of two brand new state parks, along with multiple improvements and expansions on existing state parks spreading across Utah. Of that money, $36.5 million is set aside for the creation of the two new state parks; with the remaining $83 million going toward state park improvement and expansion projects.
“This money is going directly to work,” Utah State Parks Director Jeff Rasmussen said. “The creation of these two new state parks, along with our expansion and improvement projects, directly benefit communities and economies across Utah. We greatly appreciate the Utah legislature and Governor Cox for their trust and support in investing this money wisely in our State Parks. This money will benefit all Utahns and our state park visitors.”
What can visitors to the new parks expect?
So what makes the creation of these two parks possible? In the 2021 Legislative Session, a bill — sponsored by Rep. Steve Eliason and floor sponsored by Sen. David P. Hinkins — was signed to create two new state parks: Utahraptor State Park and Lost Creek State Park.
The legislature appropriated $36.5 million to go directly towards the creation of these parks; helping ensure these areas receive the attention they need to become true jewels in the Utah State Parks system. Utah Governor Spencer Cox later signed the bill, solidifying the creation and development of these two new parks. Engineering and design plans for Utahraptor State Park and Lost Creek State Park will begin immediately, with construction work beginning in 2022.
Utahraptor State Park – Utahraptor State Park will be located roughly 15 miles northwest of Moab in the Dalton Wells and Willow Springs area of Grand County — where Utah’s most famous dinosaur was discovered. While it is still in the planning stages, visitors can look forward to two modern campgrounds, restrooms, and trailheads for access to the nearby OHV and mountain bike trail systems. This will truly be a park that caters to a wide variety of outdoor enthusiasts.
While boundaries are still being drawn up, the expected park size is between 7,000 and 8,000 acres. Construction is expected to begin in 2022. Along with coordination and planning with partner agencies, Utah State Parks is confident this designation will better preserve and protect the paleontological, cultural, and recreational resources found in this popular area.
We ask eager adventurers to be patient as the area is currently underdeveloped and only primitive camping is available. The park is expected to open officially in 2022.
Lost Creek State Park – Lost Creek State Park is located just outside the town of Croydon, Utah in Morgan County. This area, much like Utahraptor State Park, is already a very popular place to visit, especially for those who enjoy paddlecraft and fishing. While designs for Lost Creek State Park are still in the works, future visitors can expect amenities to be very similar to state parks like Jordanelle State Park, Rockport State Park, Willard Bay State Park, and East Canyon State Park.
Again, please remember, both of these new state parks are still in development, so it’s probably best to wait until they are officially open before you load the gear in the truck for a weekend adventure as they will remain in their primitive condition until they are officially open.
State Parks are getting improvements and expansions
New state parks aren’t the only thing coming to the state parks system. Several state parks are also in the process of being expanded and improved upon. With the large increase in the demand for recreation, the choice to expand upon existing facilities, infrastructure, and amenities in these Utah jewels is something park visitors will benefit from.
The $83 million appropriated to state parks for these improvements includes $67 million of General Fund money, as well as an additional $16 million coming from the Utah State Parks restricted account, which is money gathered directly from visitor fees. This means that a good portion of these improvements continues to be funded directly by park visitors.
These improvements also help to energize the local economies. Visitors to state parks often stay at local hotels, eat at restaurants, and frequent stores and gas stations. The improvement and expansion of park amenities also create jobs for contractors, park staff, private concessionaires, and more.
“It’s not just one park getting these benefits, or even two or three,” Rasmussen said. “We are going to be spreading the projects out across Utah so that multiple parks, communities, and economies can see the benefits.”
Some of the upcoming expansions and improvements at state parks include: a new campground with 40 partial hookup sites at Antelope Island State Park; beach expansion at Jordanelle State Park; new campground at Wasatch Mountain State Park; campground, beach and day-use improvements at Bear Lake State Park; and much more. See this graphic for a full list of upcoming projects coming to Utah State Parks.
These projects are expected to bring an estimated 1,000 new parking spots and 500 new campsites to state parks. It is important to acknowledge that these parking spots allow a dramatic increase in visitation to parks, because one parking stall can be used multiple times a day by different visitors, and each vehicle in those spots can carry multiple people into the park. We hope these additions help alleviate pressure from many of our parks and other surrounding recreation areas.
For exciting updates throughout the year about the new state parks, improvement projects at existing state parks, or just to just check out an exceptionally beautiful snapshot of your favorite outdoor getaway, be sure to follow us on social media and visit stateparks.utah.gov for the most up-to-date information.