ST. GEORGE — The Washington County Commission on Tuesday approved $450,000 for Zion National Park projects, including $100,000 toward the purchase of private land to ensure access to The Narrows.
Based on recommendations from the county’s Tourism Advisory Board, the commission approved a resolution granting $100,000 to the Trust for Public Land for the pending purchase of Simon Gulch, a parcel of land owned by the Bulloch family that has been used to provide public access to The Narrows hike.
The property is located between the Chamberlain Ranch trailhead and the Narrows.
“I think this is a fair resolution to help keep this beautiful and wonderful hiking experience open to the public,” Washington County Commissioner Dean Cox told St. George News Tuesday.
Washington County, the Trust for Public Land and the Bulloch family, along with the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service, have been in negotiations over the parcel following its temporary closure in late September.
“Private Property” and “No Trespassing” signs were placed on the property, denying public access to the top-down hike through The Narrows. The Bulloch family had tried for about four years to reach an agreement with the federal government on compensation in return for allowing public access. This led to Zion National Park putting a hold on issuing permits for the hike when access was denied.
Public access was restored through December 2018 via a recreational license granted to Washington County. Negotiations involving the Trust for Public Lands in January yielded continued access through March, which has been renewed by the County Commission as needed.
“We’ve periodically renewed the lease with no money involved while the Bulloch family works with the TPL,” Cox said.
The Narrows is a significant destination for tourists visiting Zion National Park, Cox added, and compared its popularity to that of Angels Landing.
During the commission meeting and afterward, Cox thanked the Bulloch family for allowing continued used of their property.
The estimated value of the Simon Gulch parcel is $1.14 million, a county employee told the commission Tuesday. Speculation is that the property would be turned over to the park after the purchase.
Inquiries regarding additional details from Zion National Park and the Trust for Public Land concerning the pending resolution of the Simon Gulch property were not returned as of publication of this report.
The Trust of Public Land recently purchased 35 acres around Zion in order to prevent development. The group also purchased the Chamberlain Ranch area in 2013.
During the same meeting, the County Commission also earmarked $250,000 for the Regional Zion Collaborative for the creation of a special app that will provide real-time information on when parking at Zion National Park is available.
Among the agencies and institutions involved in the project are Zion National Park, Utah Office of Tourism, Utah Department of Transportation, Dixie State University and Dixie Technical College.
Another $100,000 was granted to the Zion Forever Project for the production of a new film to be shown at the Zion National Park visitor center. The new production will be an updated and longer version of what has been playing there.
It is anticipated that the new film will be shown at film festivals and help spread the new Greater Zion tourism brand and marketing campaign.
St. George News reporter Mikayla Shoup contributed to this story.
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