Washington City keeps Hell Hole Trailhead name after split council vote

A sign at the entry of the Canyons Park and Hell Hole Trailhead, Washington City, Utah, Feb. 18, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A move to first rename the Hell Hole Trailhead and then simply remove it from a shared sign with a neighboring park were halted Wednesday following a split vote by the Washington City Council.

Washington City Councilman Kress Staheli, Washington City, Utah, Feb. 26, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Located on Telegraph Street directly across from Washington Parkway is the new Canyon Park and Hell Hole Trailhead at Sienna Hills. Greeting visitors to the spot is a boulder that has the name of the park and trailhead etched into it. The park and trailhead sit to the right of the boulder, while a cluster of nearby apartment buildings under construction are to its left.

Noting that the Hell Hole name may be offensive to individuals and families with small children that visit the park or live in the nearby apartments, Councilman Kress Staheli previously made a case for changing the Hell Hole Trailhead’s name during the council’s Feb. 12 meeting.

The name was a part of a plat for the park and trailhead that had been approved by the city but had yet to be recorded at the time due to debate over the plat’s potential name.

Since it officially opened in November, the Canyons Park, which features a timed obstacle course and 40-yard dash track, has become increasingly popular with locals and tourists.

“This is what’s going to be representing us,” Staheli said previously. “We get a lot of tourists and kids around this. It needs to change.”

At the official opening of the Canyon Park and Hell Hole Trailhead in Washington City, Utah, Nov. 23, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The issue was tabled at the last meeting, as some of the council wanted city staff to determine the cost of changing the boulder-sign.

During Wednesday’s council meeting, staff reported it could cost around $1,500 to sandblast the Hell Hole portion of the boulder clean but added it may not look all that great afterward. To replace the boulder-sign outright with a new etching could cost the city up to $2,500. This did not include the cost of procuring a new boulder and installing it.

“I don’t like spending money twice,” Councilman Craig Coats said, adding that the name had already “gone through the process” of city approval and he wasn’t interested in changing the sign out at this point.

Even if the city changed the name of the trailhead, the actual trail, which is on land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, would retain the name, Councilman Daniel Cluff said. It would also likely remain the same on documents maintained by other entities as well.

“I still have reservations of the concept of changing the name,” Cluff said.

L-R: Washington City Councilmen Douglas Ward and Craig Coats, Washington City, Utah, Feb. 26, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Previously, Staheli said the trail, which is four-tenths of a mile long and connects to other trails by the Virgin River, got it name from Mormon settlers who had to go down the canyon where the trail was and fetch water from the river for their homes. Because it wasn’t the most hospitable climb, it earned the name Hell Hole.

That history came into question however, as Staheli said he had also been told the area where the new park and trailhead resides used to be the town dump and was referred to as either Hell Hole or Hell’s Hole.

“It’s debatable how old that history is,” Staheli said.

Despite the origins of the name, Coats said the name is what the trail is known as now and wasn’t partial to seeing that change.

Councilman Douglas Ward said he wasn’t so sure, given the sign’s proximity to where children would be living playing.

The Hell Hole Trailhead sign set along Telegraph Street, Washington City, Feb. 18, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“If it weren’t next to a place where a bunch of kids were, I wouldn’t have heart burn over it,” Ward said.

Staheli proposed an alternative Wednesday that included repealing his former request to change the name of the trailhead and instead simply removing the name from the boulder-sign via sandblasting and creating a wayfinder sign by the trailhead that showed the Hell Hole name, as well as the name of the other trails it connected to.

Staheli said he had learned that some people did not care about the trail’s name as much as where it leads and proposed the wayfinder sign as an alternative. He also noted that he had heard from residents who both supported and opposed the idea of changing the name.

“This way we’re not shying away from our history,” Staheli said.

The council ultimately voted 3-2 to leave the name of the park and trailhead intact on the boulder-sign but to remove a large wooden sign set along Telegraph Street marking the trailhead’s location.

Councilmen Kurt Ivie, Cluff and Coats voted in favor of measure, while Staheli and Ward voted against it.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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