Proposed quarry trail moves forward

Marc Mortensen, assistant to the city manager of St. George, shows the St. George City Council an alternative trail alignment for the proposed Sandstone Quarry Trail, St. George, Sept. 10, 2015 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — After over four years and numerous meetings with city officials and others, a proposed trail leading to a historic quarry that helped build St. George is another step closer to reality.

The St. George City Council gave verbal approval to the latest iteration of the proposed Sandstone Quarry Trail during a council meeting Thursday.

The trail would start at the north end of 700 West by the Sunstone Condominiums, move along the edge of the Red Hills golf course and then turn east into the sandstone hills above the quarry site.

It’s the most significant historic site in St. George,” said Wayne Pace, founder and former president of the Dixie Encampment Chapter of the Sons of the Utah Pioneers.

Stone was taken from the quarry to help build many of the buildings and homes in St. George, Pace said.

Among those buildings are the St. George Temple and Tabernacle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the original Washington County Courthouse, the Winward School and several other buildings.

More than 120 people worked in the quarry at one time to take out stone chunks weighing between 2 tons and 7 tons, Pace said.

The general area around the quarry has additional historical significance as a place where the Paiutes once gathered, the site of a copper smelting operation, a Civilian Conservation Corps camp and eventually the site of the Red Hills golf course, the city’s first golf course.

Signs of quarrying at the Temple Quarry Trail. St George Ut. June 24, 2014 | Photo by T.S Romney St George News
An example of the quarried rock that can be found at the Temple Quarry Trail and the proposed Sandstone Quarry Trail, St George Utah. June 24, 2014 | Photo by T.S Romney, St. George News

Like the Temple Quarry Trail located on the southwest side of the Black Hill, chunks of rock left in the old sandstone quarry are marked with cuts and holes made during excavation.

The trail itself is anticipated to be a single-track, 18-inch-wide dirt path.

The local chapter of the Sons of the Utah Pioneers has been trying to get the trail created since 2011, Pace said. This process has included at least 20 formal meetings with city officials, as well as officials with the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve Habitat Conservation Plan committee, as much of the trail would be located in the desert reserve.

Pace thought everything had been finalized last September, he said. He was ready to move ahead with the project but hit several roadblocks somewhere along the way.

“We’ve run into unlimited snags,” Pace said.

The latest snag holding up the creation of the trail was the trail’s alignment. City officials had liability concerns over how steep the trail may be in parts, plus the possibility hikers could be smacked by golf balls due to part of the trail being next to the golf course. HCP committee members were concerned about the affect the path would have on the area and wanted the least impact possible.

General location of the trail and old quarry. Text added by St. George News | Image courtesy of SGCityMaps, St. George News
General location of the trail and old quarry. Text added by St. George News | Image courtesy of SGCityMaps, St. George News

Both the city and the HCP committee came to a consensus on an alternate path that would have the least impact on protected desert tortoise habitat.

“The whole thing could have been solved in five minutes — it’s only taken me four and a half years,” Pace said laughing, following the council meeting.

“I think it’s a good compromise,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said, as details of the alternate trail were shared at the meeting.

The Dixie Encampment Chapter of Sons of the Utah Pioneers has committed to, and has been raising money for, plaques, a quarry monument, entry pillars to make the trailhead at 700 West, as well as an additional plaque to put on a part of the Owens Loop Trail system that overlooks a part of the old quarry. A local nursery has also committed to donate plants for landscaping purposes.

In addition to what the SUP chapter is pledging, they are asking the city to provide netting on a small portion of the trail to catch stray golf balls, provide sandstone steps on a steep part of the trail, cover the mitigation needs required by the desert reserve for the trail — covering an estimated area of 0.4 acres — and possibly relocate the Dixie Red Hills maintenance entrance.

Though the council appeared to favor the project, City Manager Gary Esplin said a possible roadblock at this juncture is how much the mitigation and installing the sandstone steps may cost the city.

Some discussion was had about using some of the mitigation credits the city has with the reserve. Those credits are used on projects like the city’s power and utility line corridors that pass though the reserve. That is one possible way the city may be able to move the Sandstone trail past its lingering concept and finally become a reality.

We’re happy to move ahead at any time,” Pace said.

Pike said the council agreed with the concept it saw Thursday and asked city staff to see what needs to be done to get the project moving.

“Let’s move forward,” Pike said.

Noting how long the proposed trail project had taken to get to this point, Councilman Jimmie Hughes said, “Sometimes, it takes a while to get it right.”

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Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.


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