Washington City runs into obstacle regarding location of proposed bike park

An undeveloped part of Washington Fields in the area near the future 3650 South-Southern Parkway Interchange that is proposed to become a ‘wheels’ regional park. The park would cater to cycling, skateboarding, scooters and other wheel-based activities, May 14, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A portion of public land Washington City considered applying for as part of a proposed bike park may not be as available as originally thought.

The Washington City Council meets at the city offices while members of city staff participate over Zoom, Washington County, Utah, June 24, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Washington City, St. George News

During a Wednesday work meeting of the Washington City Council, City Manager Roger Carter said the Bureau of Land Management had contacted the city with concerns that originated from a St. George News article published earlier this month regarding a potential site for the proposed park.

The BLM reached out to Washington City “somewhat stressed,” Carter said, as it appeared the city was getting ahead of itself in reference to a process that hadn’t even started yet.

The issue is surrounding the city’s pending Recreation and Public Purpose request to procure BLM land for the park in an area set between 3650 South and the Southern Parkway near Warner Valley. It had been reported that the application was submitted to the BLM by June 2, but that was not the case.

Christian Venhuizen, a spokesperson for the BLM’s Color County District, confirmed Washington City had emailed the BLM some information regarding the proposed project. However, an application has yet to be submitted for consideration.

The general area between 3560 South and the Southern Parkway where a proposed ‘wheels’ regional park would be built. | Map courtesy of Google Maps, St. George News

“There’s a process associated with the application, and that process takes time,” Carter said.

This process includes an environmental impact study that takes a year to complete, among other requirements the BLM needs to observe along the way.

Another issue unknown to the City Council at the time was that the land that would have been a part of the application is currently considered an “area of critical environmental concern” as it is a part of the habitat for the endangered dwarf bearclaw poppy, Carter said.

An email sent to St. George News from the BLM Thursday calls this area the “Warner Valley/Ft. Peace Area of Critical Environmental Concern.”

“This ACEC received its designation because it contains the endangered dwarf bearclaw poppy (Arctomecon humilis), the threatened siler pincushion cactus (Pediocactus sileri), and highly erodible soils. It also houses important riparian values and historic sites,” the federal agency stated in the email.

A claw poppy blooming among others dispersed across red dirt areas southeast of the Bear Claw Poppy Trail system in St. George, Utah, April 28, 2018 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News

These factors would possibly necessitate the involvement of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which could further complicate the issue, Carter said.

“If we applied for (the Recreation and Public Purpose request), we’d need to be very, very careful that we allow the process to move forward before we indicate there would be anything that would be firm,” the city manager said.

“Working together with our local communities is a keystone to maintaining success in managing public lands in Washington County, and we are meeting with Washington City to help them identify the best possible locations for potential projects,” the BLM stated in its email Thursday. “We look forward to receiving and reviewing applications for those projects when the city is ready to move ahead.”

While acquiring land from the BLM may not be as likely an option as originally thought, Councilman Kurt Ivie said having the bike park in the Washington Fields area was still possible, as two private property owners there are willing to provide an estimated 16 acres for the project. The acreage will still be enough to allow the city to create a regional park catering to a bike pump track and related activities.

Washington City Councilman Kurt Ivie points out over a dirt field in the area of the future 3650 South-Southern Parkway Interchange that is proposed to become a ‘wheels’ regional park in Washington Fields. The park would cater to cycling, skateboarding, scooters and other wheel-based activities, May 14, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“These people are ready to do that, we just need to reach out,” Ivie said.

Going with private property would also allow the process to move faster as the city wouldn’t have to deal with a federal application process, he added.

The Washington Fields location has yet to be finalized as the city may consider other options for the location of the proposed park.

The idea for the regional park came out of a request from 11-year-old Washington City resident C.J. Nielson to the City Council to provide a place where the town’s youth could ride their scooters and skateboards.

The idea of a scooter and skate park eventually morphed into the concept of a regional park that included a bike-pump track and other “wheels” related activities. It has also been proposed the that park offer traditional amenities like a playground, picnic area and so on so it could be enjoyed by more people.

Thus far, the general location of the proposed park remains tentative and subject to change moving forward.

For now, the City Council approved $134,700 to go toward concept ideas for the park Wednesday.

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

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