People wanting to visit Antelope Island will have to wait, maybe as long as two more years, because the Legislature in its just-completed session didn't appropriate enough money to rehabilitate the state park facilities there.
But people aren't waiting.By one count, around 200 were at the Syracuse entrance to the island causeway Sunday afternoon. They were attracted by the warm weather and a desire to visit the island.
The locked gate and "No Trespassing" signs didn't deter some of them, according to Kenny Payne, chief deputy of the Davis County Sheriff's Department.
Payne reported Monday morning to the county commissioners that people are going past the locked gate, ignoring the signs and walking, jogging and cycling on the causeway.
The county has jurisdiction over the causeway and has supervised its reconstruction. The 7.5-mile causeway is complete, except for a temporary bridge about a mile out from the island.
"I watched the area during the afternoon and, based on the number of cars coming and going, estimate about 200 people visited there, through the course of the afternoon," Payne said.
"That was just on Sunday. I don't know how many may have visited on Saturday. They ignore the signs. They just walk past them," Payne said. "The problem is going to get worse as the weather warms up and people are out looking for things to do."
Commissioner J. Dell Holbrook said he and fellow commissioners Gerald Purdy and Gayle Stevenson are more than disappointed in the Legislature's appropriation of only $1 million in additional funding for completing the causeway and rehabilitating the island's facilities.
Park superintendent Mitch Larsson told a legislative delegation touring the island two weeks ago that $5 million is need for causeway completion, utility construction and other refurbishing to open the park.
"Disappointed isn't the right word. We're pretty torqued about it," Holbrook said.
Of the $1 million appropriated, about $300,000 will be spent on the causeway to build a permanent bridge over the equalization channel and for other work. The remaining $700,000 will be spent on bringing electricity, drinking water, and other utilities back onto the island.
The county wanted additional funding to raise the causeway another 2 feet before paving it, as insurance against wind and wave erosion. But that probably won't happen.
Larsson and county officials are reluctant to open the island without refurbishing the beaches, picnic and camping grounds, roads, marina and other facilities.The lack of funding could delay the park's reconstruction until 1993 or 1994, according to park officials.
The county wants to charge a $3 to $5 toll to pay for rebuilding and maintaining the causeway as a county road, in addition to the park entrance fee.
But the commissioners fear if people pay the fee, drive out to the island and find only marginal facilities, they may not return in a year or two when more money may be available and the park will be in better shape.