OPINION - When it comes to pristine landscapes and breathtaking views like the ones invariably taken in at Snow Canyon State Park, there are basically two types of people experiencing them: those who see them as something to be preserved for future generations to enjoy and those who envision a golf course and a subdivision.
It goes without saying that I would advocate the former over the latter. I do, however, understand the economic benefit provided by development and therefore give due recognition to those who would advocate maximizing the use of prime real estate.
The park, which was founded in 1958, is currently being considered for a change of management, as the State can apparently no longer afford to maintain its operations. Washington County, the City of St. George, and the City of Ivins would like to step up to the plate and manage the park so it can keep things local and perhaps address a few concerns residents of the county have, like the $6 entrance fee.
(That fee by the way, goes in to the State Park coffers, which fund all state parks, but has been a point of contention for residents since its implementation.)
I may be off base here but from whence cometh the notion that this land needs to be managed in a manner more conducive to local needs and desires? Is it not a State Park at least in part because it is meant to be enjoyed by everyone? Does not the state’s management of the park take seriously the responsibility of stewardship to include but not limit itself to the concerns of people in its zip code? Most of the park’s visitors are likely not local.
This has the hint of something more than just community needs.
While it may be true that the park is not sustaining itself financially and may have to be annexed to another entity for management, are those seeking to do so really concerned with addressing the needs of the community or are they seizing an opportunity of a more profitable nature? Is it too much to assert that this is the case? It might be.
The park, although currently under the state’s governance has a mandate provided by the Washington County Habitat Conservation Plan that allows for the preservation of not only the park but also the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and other areas. The HCP protects endangered species like the desert tortoise.
Perhaps it is the fact that the HCP is set to expire in 2016 – at which time it will be renegotiated – that is getting people up in arms and creating a little bit of hysteria as to the intentions of those who would seek to put the park in the control of local elected officials, who are themselves developers or have personal relationships with them.
The 1998 Snow Canyon State Park Resource Management Plan Resource Management Plan.pdf – Google Docs docs.google.com outlines specific ways to create a cooperative management structure that will bring all stakeholders to this and is what is sorely needed in this most contentious issue.
If there is a perceived distrust of the intentions of local officials with regards to this, they have only themselves to blame for not being more proactive in seeing to it that the community is involved in the discussion. Projects like the Bluff Street expansion, which was largely determined in meetings held in nonpublic settings, or at least marginally made known to the general public until the end game, have helped to create this stigmatism that may now take some sincere reassuring to calm this swell of cynicism.
Can I be so bold as to encourage you to not only read that document but to also be watching for the news letter from the City of Ivins where Mayor Chris Hart might be addressing this issue and the publics involvement? The issue comes out next week.
Listen, it simply is not a stretch in this town for there to be a natural suspicion of nefarious behavior coming from relationships between developers and elected officials. But there needs to be hard evidence to that effect to prove it.
That said, correlation, while not causation, is indicative and some of those involved with the proposal of handling the management of this precious resource have to at least acknowledge and address that if they do, in fact, want the public’s trust.
Assume the best, prepare for the worst I always say.
See you out there.
Dallas Hyland is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
Copyright 2012 St. George News.