Zion Forever Project boasts unprecedented success in Year 1. Are you in?

This composite of St. George News file photos includes Zion National Park in the background with insets from L-R of the El Halta family enjoying views of Point Supreme at Cedar Breaks National Monument and a covered wagon on display at Pipe Spring National Monument. All three assets of the National Park Service are being benefited by the Zion Natl Park Forever Project since May 2017. Zion and Cedar Breaks, Utah, dates not specified; Pipe Spring, Arizona, April 24, 2016 | Zion photo courtesy of Love Communications, Cedar Breaks photo courtesy of Sam El Halta, Pipe Spring photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Rebranding and refocusing priorities have been a boon to the Zion Natl Park Forever Project and the national park and monuments it supports.

In this 2017 file photo, crews treat a captured bighorn sheep in Zion National Park, Utah, November 2017 | Photo courtesy of Zion Natl Park Forever Project, St. George News

In May 2017 the nonprofit advocate of Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument and Pipe Spring National Monument, Zion Natl Park Forever Project was formed through the merger of three nonprofits known as the Zion Natural History Association, the Zion Canyon Field Institute and the Zion National Park Foundation.

The new official nonprofit partner of Zion, Cedar Breaks and Pipe Spring, adopted a new name but, more importantly, established a new set of initiatives. Those efforts have yielded unprecedented results, building a private-public partnership that has funded 25 projects identified as the park and monuments’ top priorities, amounting to approximately a $1 million investment in the three.

Forever Project director Mark Preiss, brought onboard from the Glacier National Park Conservancy in 2016, has been one of the visionaries behind the rebranding and establishment of the private-public partnership, something he did at Glacier. Even he said he didn’t anticipate the resounding success – the high funding levels – during this first year after the rebranding.

Funded projects are several, including efforts to protect Zion’s bighorn sheep herd; Concrete to Canyon, a program which provides students in Title I schools the opportunity to experience Zion National Park for the first time; a new Zion National Park film to be shown at the park’s visitor center; the reconstruction of the Middle Emerald Pools Trail.

Cedar Breaks
This 1921 photo shows the first automobile touring party parked at Point Supreme, Cedar Breaks, Utah Oct. 18, 1921 | Photo courtesy of Barbara A. Matheson Special Collections, Southern Utah University, St. George News

At Cedar Breaks, the Forever Project helped fund the design of a new visitor education center in partnership with Iron County Iron County Restaurant Tax Program. It also recently published a book about the national monument, “Beauty Beyond Telling” by Josh LaMore. The book is a “little gem,” according to a March 6 post on the National Park Service’s Cedar Breaks Facebook page states. “A joy to read, and beautiful to look at – this book covers how Cedar Breaks came to be (geological and historically speaking) and the wild and human history of the park.”

Southern Utah University and Brian Head are also partners in the Forever Project’s efforts at Cedar Breaks.

Read more: Cedar Breaks day; enlightening education at high altitude

This 2016 file photo shows a fort known as Winsor Castle, a 19th century Mormon ranch house at Pipe Spring National Monument, Arizona, April 24, 2016 | File photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Pipe Spring, on the Arizona Strip, includes among its historic features a fort known as Winsor Castle. In its 2018 field guide, the Forever Project describes the building as “a fortified Mormon ranch house that illustrates the complex approaches of the U.S. government and the Mormons in interacting with American Indians in the mid-1800s ….” One of the Forever Project’s funding measures is to contribute to the reproduction of period furniture, furnishings and costumes for exhibit in the castle.

Read more: Explore: Pipe Spring National Monument, a crossroads of the west

A notable pending project in which the Forever Project is involved is support for a new shuttle system and an extension of the shuttle season for Zion. Others there include replacement of comfort stations at the park’s east entrance and new toilet facilities at Scout Lookout. Talks are also in play for the building of a visitor contact station at the east entrance station; the station would be built on private land owned by Zion Mountain Ranch, which, Priess said, was one of the first local businesses to lend support to the Forever Project.

Read more: This is the history of the Zion shuttle and why it was remarkable for national parks

The organization’s list of funding priorities, which the Forever Project calls its field guide, details projects and allows donors to choose the project to which they would like to contribute. These fall into four categories: preservation, education, visitor experience and sustainability. The 2019 version of its field guide will be released this spring.

This 2017 file photo shows a park ranger at Zion National Park  speaking with students participating in the “Concrete to Canyons” program, which the Zion Natl Park Forever Project supports. Zion National Park, Utah, Oct. 12, 2017 | File photo courtesy of the National Park Service, St. George News

With federal funding flat and declining, the Zion Forever Project’s leveraging of funds for the parks is vital for these national assets to keep up with growing demand in all facets, especially Zion’s steadily rising visitation.

Thanks to the Forever Project’s efforts, every strata of the population can get involved in raising money for Zion and its sister monuments in many ways, a recent news release from the project stated. Kids can donate their change at park store cash registers and Springdale businesses can get on board by donating some of their revenue to park causes.

Two of the project’s biggest corporate supporters have been Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Zions Bank, and Kem Gardner, chairman of Gardner Company, according to the news release said. Both are founding members of the Forever Project Founders Circle.

The Watchman and the Virgin River in Zion National Park, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy Amira Resort, St. George News

“My renewed commitment to Zion is for my grandchildren – for their future enjoyment and memories of Zion,” Anderson said, according to the release. “I join many generous contributors in stating it is an honor and a privilege to be involved in this effort of stewardship over some of God’s most breathtaking work.”   

Zion’s Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh called the project “a collaborative and necessary partnership that is setting a new standard of support for national parks,” according to the release, further quoting him:

“I could not be more grateful to the expanding Zion Circle of donors who stand behind these efforts. Everyone, whether organization or individual who has contributed or has yet to contribute, can take pride in sharing this inspirational land with the millions of visitors that come from around the United States and the world every year.”

One of the Forever Project’s main aims, Preiss said, is to help advocates and visitors “form deeper connection to the resource.”

Building on the infrastructure of the former nonprofits, Preiss said, the directors of the Zion Natl Park Forever Project sat down with the staffs of each park and worked on how they could be more strategic in creating leveraging partnerships. He sees it as setting a foundation and building a community of supporters for the interests of Zion and its sister monuments.

This historic photo shows the Utah Parks Company’s Zion Lodge with several 11-passenger buses used for the Union Pacific subsidiary’s loop tours of the Grand Circle national parks, including Bryce Canyon, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Cedar Breaks and Zion, Zion National Park, Utah, circa 1920s | Photo used by permission from the Utah State Historical Society, St. George News

Zion’s centennial as a national park next year (the park was designated Mukuntuweap National Monument in 1909 then expanded and named Zion National Park in 1919) will be a platform to help inspire more giving. Preiss said he hopes Zion supporters will take this moment and think about the next 100 years and answer the question, “What legacy are we going to leave?”

Another initiative the Forever Project backs is communicating to Zion visitors about other recreation options they can enjoy during their visit; along these lines, Preiss specifically mentioned  Red Cliffs and Eagle’s Crag.

“We need to have a large landscape perspective,” he said.

The framework and strategies the Forever Project has been initiating have received positive feedback, Preiss said, and are strategies that can also benefit Utah’s four other national parks.


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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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