ST. GEORGE — With its breathtaking parks and amazing outdoor adventure opportunities, Southern Utah provides the ultimate playground to celebrate National Parks and Recreation Month in July.
Officially declared by Congress in 1985, National Parks and Recreation Month was established to help build strong, resilient communities and honor the more than 160,000 full-time park and recreational employees along with the hundreds of thousands of part-time and seasonal workers and volunteers.
Parks aplenty in St. George
The city of St. George is packed with great places for people to explore and play. With 49 parks and 60 miles of paved trails, there is a place to recreate for everyone. Dawn Eide, manager of the St. George Recreation Center, said each quarter, more than 15,000 visitors use the St. George Recreation Center for sports, exercise, art classes, or to use on-site equipment like ping pong and pool tables.
In celebration of National Parks and Recreation Month, the city of St. George is highlighting 13 activities designed to bring the community together. Eide said these include things like a free movie night at Town Square, a free concert in Worthen Park, an Art Conversation Evening, pickleball clinics, a basketball shootout and much more.
“We’re trying to utilize different parks, different facilities to introduce and educate different audiences to the types of activities that we offer,” Eide said.
In St. George, there is an easy tie between the natural outdoor amenities and recreation opportunities. Residents don’t have to go far to find places to mountain bike, hike or go bouldering.
“We have the opportunity to use our public lands and the beauty and nature around us,” said Cody Schmitt, Deputy Director of Recreation for the city of St. George. “We can go out any which way, hop on a trail and go for a few miles, enjoy our morning walk, jog or ride and be back to our house within a half hour to an hour.”
All of the parks and trails in St. George are free to the public. Classes, clinics, tournaments and some facilities like the city pools are available for small fees. A survey conducted by the National Recreation and Park Association reveals nearly 9 in 10 people believe it is important to fund local park and recreational agencies. In St. George, Schmitt said funding comes primarily from recreation fees, private organizations and the city of St. George’s general fund.
“We’re trying to make our price structure so that everybody can come and participate and learn and grow from the things that we offer,” Schmitt said.
In addition to user fees, the city of St. George also looks to the community to help keep programs running. For example, Schmitt said Stephen Wade is a primary sponsor of youth sports, donating tens of thousands of dollars each year for programs like flag football, t-ball, soccer, adult pickleball tournaments, leagues and sponsoring the Fourth of July parade. Volunteers are also utilized to teach classes and help with things like tournaments.
Schmitt hopes the public will celebrate National Parks and Recreation Month by participating in some of the special activities being highlighted this July. For a schedule of events, visit this website.
One way to stay cool and appreciate the unique beauty of Utah is by a visit to Cedar Breaks National Monument. The annual Wildflower Festival is currently underway. Andres Manuel Bustamante, acting divisional supervisory park ranger at Cedar Breaks, said visitors are treated to a gorgeous array of wildflowers including Colorado columbine, Aspen bluebells, elkweed, Indian paintbrush, sunflowers and yellow evening primrose.
“Visitors also have the opportunity to discover Markagunt Penstemon,” Bustamante said. “This species is endemic to the Markagunt Plateau, where Cedar Breaks is located, which means that it is found nowhere else in the world.”
Wildflower Festival goers are invited to participate in 45-minute Wildflower Ranger Walks, which are offered four times a day. Additionally, visitors can play Wildflower Bingo! for a chance to earn a special wildflower pin.
The Wildflower Festival runs through Monday at Cedar Breaks National Monument. For more information, visit this website.
National Parks and Recreation Month is also a time when people can boost their knowledge about the places they most enjoy. Visitors to Zion National Park have the opportunity to learn about the plants and animals found in the park through a series of free Ranger Programs. For the first time since 2019, Zion is able to offer a full slate of these popular lectures.
Jonathan Shafer, Zion National Park public affairs specialist, said the Ride with a Ranger program enables visitors to learn about the things that make Zion special while riding the shuttle with a ranger.
“Through a series of stops, visitors get to see a variety of places throughout Zion Canyon and hear from a ranger about what they can learn at each of them,” Shafer said.
Some of the other Ranger Programs include a guided hike on the Watchman Trail, ranger talks, evening campground lectures, and programs for young people. Shafer said the Ranger Programs also teach the public how to stay safe and be good stewards of the park.
“Rangers share information about how to stay healthy in our dry desert environment, how to avoid hazards like flash floods and how to follow the “leave no trace” principles to keep the park a special place today and forever,” Shafer said.
For a schedule of the Ranger Programs at Zion National Park, follow this link.
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