Is expansion in the future for Goblin Valley?
Could Goblin Valley State Park be expanding? The very slightest glimmer of an idea is taking shape and parties involved are excited with the possibility.
Fred Hayes the director for Utah State Parks and Tim Smith the southern regional director for state parks visited the Emery County Lands Council to discuss the idea with them.
If lands open up as a result of Rep. Rob Bishop's land bill, would there be lands that could be used to expand state parks was the question posed by the Governor's office to Hayes. They found the idea intriguing and started to look at the possibilities. One of the places considered was the expansion of Goblin Valley. The Temple Mountain area as well as Behind the Reef, Little Wild Horse Canyon, Ding and Dang Canyons all receive a lot of use. What if the state parks could enhance this area for visitors and create more opportunities for tourists.
Mainly facilities that would include increased restrooms in the area and picnic tables and an increased park like atmosphere. More signage and visitor information could also be provided.
Hayes was quick to point out the discussion to extend Goblin Valley into the Swell is in its beginning phase. It's not known how the plan would look.
Smith said plans would remain consistent with the county plan. "Goblin Valley is a profitable park. During the season, four people live at Goblin Valley. They are involved in a lot of searches and quick recoveries."
Goblin Valley personnel are also quick to report road conditions and if work is needed on a particular stretch of road.
Any extension of Goblin Valley would add a measure of protection for those areas as well as increased staff presence. Staff would be concerned with ATV education as well as sanitary facilities and making sure camping took place in designated areas. Proceeds from state parks go back into those parks.
Beautiful landscapes draw people to the area and increased amenities would make their stay more enjoyable.
Smith said an expanded park is also an economic opportunity because the state park pays Emery County sales tax and transient room tax. More employees would also be added which brings more economic opportunity.
The question was asked if grazing could continue in that area. Hayes said there is grazing in many of the state parks. They expect grazing would continue with BLM supervision.
Much of the expansion area is within a Wilderness Study Area at the current time and on SITLA ground.
One question was asked if this expansion would limit development of natural resources in the area. Geary said those opportunities are limited because its a WSA anyway.
Smith said at Dead Horse State Park there is drilling up to its borders and directional drilling hasn't affected visitors to the park.
Hayes said multiple use has always been a goal of state parks.
Ray Petersen said when the public lands council held scoping meetings, a major consensus was protect resource uses. "That's what we ask of you. Be consistent. We don't want to eliminate one resource use for another," said Petersen.
Hayes said they plan to do things right and will involve Emery County each step of the way. Hayes said there was a bill which created the Utah Wilderness Act which can designate lands under the state. He doesn't know much about it or how it will play out.
Smith said the majority of these lands would be difficult to develop. But, if any wilderness is designated the existing travel routes would go away.
Hayes said the proposal when developed will go through a public process with everyone notified so they can take part. There would be a public comment period. The size of the expansion hasn't been determined yet.
Smith said the area would have to be manageable. The area is currently SITLA land and Smith said there have been partnerships with SITLA in places like Sand Flat in Grand County which contains slick rock trails. SITLA receives a percentage and maybe a partnership of this kind could be worked out.
Mike McCandless, Emery County Economic Development Director wasn't present at the public lands meeting, but commented about the project to the Emery County Travel Bureau. He said he thought it was a brilliant idea and would bring more resources to that area. It also could have an effect on HB-148 which proposes to take back land in Utah from the federal government. If the state can succeed on a smaller scale to manage that land, then from that perspective it could very useful.