‘The Boilers’ celebrated as Washington City’s newest park

ST. GEORGE — Once fenced off from the public and overgrown with vegetation, the natural spring popularly known as “the Boilers” in Washington City has undergone a gradual transformation over the last decade from a potential hazard to a community park and conservation garden.

At the ribbon-cutting for The Boilers community park and conservation garden in Washington City, Utah, Oct. 13, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Community members and public officials gathered at the new park Tuesday to celebrate its completion and opening with a ribbon-cutting.

“This park has been planned since 1998, so it’s been 20 years coming,” Washington City’s leisure services director Barry Blake said.

Originally a source of fresh water and recreation for the area’s Native Americans and then the  Latter-day settlers who arrived in the 1850s, by the late 1990s the Boilers had come to be associated with drinking, drug use and vandalism and had fallen into a general state of overgrowth and disrepair.

However, the Boilers has a long-held sentimental and historical value to several Washington City residents. Mayor Ken Neilson has previously mentioned memories of swimming in the warm, spring-fed pond during his youth.

When Neilson took office in 2010, people began to ask for the Boilers to be opened up again, and he said he figured, “Why not?”

The Boilers, also known as Warm Springs, as it looked in 2014, Washington City, Utah, May 24, 2016 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

It would be four more years until the fence came down, but when it finally did, the Boilers started down the gradual path of becoming the park the city celebrated Tuesday.

“This is wonderful,” Neilson said to St. George News after the ribbon was cut. Behind him, teens – many of whom were members of the city’s youth council – had already jumped into the pond and were swimming around. Two of the City Council members jumped in too.

“This has been, for some people, 30, 40, 50 years incoming,” the mayor said, adding that the creation of the new Boilers park was partly done to honor the legacy of the LDS settlers who “stuck it out so we could enjoy what we enjoy today.”

Also called the “Warms Springs,” the pond is set along the west side of Interstate 15 just south of Main Street and has served as a source of irrigation water for residents in downtown Washington City.

The pond is a naturally fed artesian aquifer fed by three warm springs with an output of 30,000 gallons per hour. The temperature of the water stays at a 70-75 degree range year-round.

At the ribbon-cutting for The Boilers community park and conservation garden in Washington City, Utah, Oct. 13, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The water from the springs appears to “boil” up through the sand in the bottom of the pond, giving the Boilers its nickname.

Once situated in the middle of a sandy lot covered in brush and rocks, the area around the Boilers now has newly added grass, a pavilion, picnic tables, a playground and a crisscrossing walkway on the hillside leading down to the pond.

Along the pathway are various desert-friendly and water-efficient plants as part of a conservation garden. Washington County Water Conservancy District general manager Zachary Renstrom said they worked in partnership with the city, lending their “expertise in desert landscaping.”

Set in front each plant is a small sign that gives the name of the plant and offers more information through a QR code that can be scanned by a smart phone.

City Council member Kress Staheli wore a large smile while slowly drying off from having jumped into the pond earlier. “I think it turned out really nice,” he said.

Staheli was on the City Council in 2013 and 2015 when efforts were made by a local nonprofit group to create a nature conservatory focused around the Boilers. Staheli supported the idea despite it being voted down by the council at the time.

At the ribbon-cutting for The Boilers community park and conservation garden in Washington City, Utah, Oct. 13, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“I’m happy we’re preserving a space that has so much history,” he said.

One aspect of the new park Staheli said he was particularly proud of is the inclusion of the conservation garden, which ties into other conservation gardens created by the water district.

The Boilers park is estimated to have cost $1 million to build.

While the new park was celebrated, it was also noted that for many decades, people have dumped their unwanted aquatic pets into the Boilers – anything from goldfish to frogs to turtles. Among the non-native fish found in the Boilers has been a pacu, a species of fish related to the piranha. The pacu was caught by a curious fisherman in June 2015 while visiting the pond.

“It used to be a dumping ground for people,” Neilson said. “Hopefully we’ve gotten rid of that.”

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

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