ST. GEORGE – Construction is expected to begin next spring on the first phase of a 730-acre development in the Green Valley Gap, a popular mountain biking, rock climbing and off-highway vehicle area west of the Green Valley area in St. George.
In the past, the location has hosted numerous mountain bike races, the largest of which is the Utah High School Cycling League state championship which drew several hundred riders to the event in October.
Other races held in the area include True Grit, Fall Fury, Cactus Hugger and the Huntsman World Senior Games downhill and cross-country biking events. The races had a significant economic impact, up to $15 million when combined, Bureau of Land Management recreation planner Dave Kiel said
Although the land is privately owned, the area has been used for years by mountain bikers, OHVs and all-terrain vehicles, dirt bike riders and four-wheel drive vehicles.
The private land extends from the top of the hill at the end of Canyon View Drive west through the valley and halfway up the hill, Kiel said.
“The other half is public land up top, that we manage,” he said.
The mountain bike trails used by events go up and down the hill, with the staging area at the bottom in the valley.
“So there’s no way to eliminate the lower half and still have viable events in there,” Kiel said.
After the land is developed, access to many of the mountain bike trails will be maintained for individual riders. However the races will likely have to find a new home, Kiel said. That may not be easy because of the parking space needed to stage the big races. Kiel estimates 700-800 vehicles were parked at the Green Valley site for the high school championship race.
The Green Valley location is ideal for big races because it is close to town, Kiel said, has lots of parking and has challenging courses and trails. And, because of the soil composition, the area can be raced when it is fairly wet.
“It’s hard to find something to replace that,” Kiel said. “Doesn’t mean we can’t, but it’s certainly not going to be easy.”
While lots of new trails have been built in the Hurricane Cliffs area, there isn’t enough parking there to accommodate big races, Kiel said. The final answer may be some combination of state, private and BLM-managed land.
The land owner has allowed the races to go on, but that is coming to an end with the development planned to start soon.
“It’s an unfortunate thing, but it wasn’t unexpected,” Kiel said.
Craig Shanklin, president of the Southern Utah Bicycle Alliance, said the timing of construction was a surprise.
“The developer should be praised for allowing so many people to use this property without restriction for so many years,” Shanklin said. “They are not the bad guy. It’s just unfortunate that information about this impending development was not shared with users at an earlier stage.”
There are some benefits to the transition, Mark Mortensen, assistant to the city manager, said, as the area is somewhat of a free-for-all. Mountain bikers mix with dirt bikes and ATVs, and target shooting happens in some areas.
The development is aiming to appeal to people who enjoy natural trails and access to open space and is open to preserving trails, Mortensen said.
“The only thing that is apparent is that it may not be suitable for large-scale events,” he said about the development.
“The developer is very interested in preserving trails, as is the BLM, SITLA (School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration) and others,” Mortensen said.
The Lakes at St. George
The new development is owned by St. George 730 LLC, a Nevada company, and is being managed by Mark Teepen of Land Development Consultants Inc.
Construction will begin with large-scale grading in the first quarter or the beginning of the second quarter 2016, Teepen said. The initial grading will not interfere with two races scheduled for the area in March.
“But the ones in the future, after March, are going to have to be located elsewhere, or we have to coordinate a different staging area,” Teepen said.
The land use plan for The Lakes was developed in close coordination with city planners, Teepen said, in an effort to maintain access for hikers, mountain bikers and rock climbers.
“This plan was really developed on that basis, to create and maintain trail access in pristine areas like the Gap wash people like to go climbing on,” Teepen said, “for all the residents of St. George.”
Grading will begin in spring 2016 for parcels 14-18, although only parcels 14 and 15 directly west of the Sunbrook Golf Club are scheduled for home construction in 2016. More parcels will be developed to the south along Plantations Drive, which will eventually connect into Dixie Drive. The entire project could take 10-15 years to finish, Teepen said.
Thirty percent of the development will be maintained as open space, Teepen said, in parks, green spaces and trails.
In the current master plan, all the canyons will remain open, project engineer Ray Allton, of Rosenberg Associates, said, along with all of the access points to get to BLM land and trails in the washes that run east-west. Access to the Bear Claw Poppy Trail and St. George city water tanks will be maintained, Allton said.
The development will be done in three main phases, with a total of 18 areas, Allton said. Each area will be a small standalone neighborhood with a few streets.
“Usually it’s the washes that break up these neighborhoods because they’re keeping the washes and all that open,” Allton said, “so the neighborhoods are kind of in between the washes, in between the canyons.”
The Lakes project will include a variety of products and densities, Allton said, from townhomes to single-family homes, Allton said. One area is designated as community commercial for smaller local businesses, he said.
Ed. note: Corrected spelling of Mark Teepen’s name.
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