The Emery County Commission approved supporting the proposal to expand Goblin Valley State Park. Ed Geary the chairman of the public lands council said state parks is proposing to expand Goblin Valley. Ray Petersen, public lands director displayed a copy of a map with the expanded area outlined. The expansion would encompass 136,000 acres making it among the largest state parks. The expanded park falls within the Emery County land use policy in the San Rafael Mining District.
Geary pointed out their main concern is in protecting existing uses mainly recreation and livestock grazing in the area. The expanded area includes Crack Canyon Wilderness Study area as well as other popular hiking and ATV trails. The entire area contains several grazing allotments. The public lands council sees some clear advantages to having the area within a state park. Recreational use in that area continues to rise and there are lost hikers, user created trails and campsites. The state parks would impose a user fee for the area and those fees would stay within the state park for improvements including toilets, picnic tables and campgrounds. There would be more state park employees in the area managing the area from the ground instead of from the BLM office 100 miles away.
Geary said the public lands council is working with the grazers to make sure they will not be injured in any park expansion. Mistie Christiansen, lands council member provided a map of how the grazing permits relate to that area. Christiansen said the grazers want to be an active part of the process as it moves forward.
Commissioner James Nelson said the expanded state park might even address some of the issues grazers have with people camping around the watering holes for cattle and displacing the cows. Geary said they would like to see a level of management equal to the use in that area. Any camping done in state parks pays into the Transient Room Tax which is dispersed to the Emery County Travel Bureau for allocation on various tourism projects within the county.
The Emery County Commissioners voted to support further study and action concerning the expansion of Goblin Valley State Park. Tim Smith from the state parks explained there are two different paths for acquiring the now Bureau of Land Management land for the expansion of Goblin Valley. One would be to include the proposal within Cong. Rob Bishop's land use bill he is working on with Cong. Jason Chaffetz's office. This action would transfer the ownership of the land from Bureau of Land Management to state land. This process would require Congressional approval.
The other process could include a working partnership with the BLM where the state parks would manage the recreational use of the land. The BLM would continue to manage the wild horse and burros and the grazing management. To proceed in this manner would require a memorandum of understanding between the BLM and the state parks.
The process could be handled within the Price Field Office with approval from the state BLM office. Smith said this arrangement would enhance the protection and add amenities to the area including rest rooms, picnic tables and camping. This Goblin Valley expansion will have no impact on tax payers. User fees would be used to improve the area. Smith said state parks is excited to partner with the BLM to enhance the economics of this area. TRT taxes are paid by state park visitors as well as a county sales tax which would increase the flow of money back into the county.
Smith said the number of visitors to this region has more than doubled in the last four years and to date visitors in 2014 is more than 2013. Impacts are made to the area on very busy weekends and every campsite is taken and people flow over into other areas.
Improvements could also be made to the trail head area at Little Wild Horse Canyon and opportunities for camping in the area could expand.