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Davis County officials see it as the crown jewel of their tourism and economic development plans and are pressing the state to reopen Antelope Island State Park as quickly as possible.

And, according to a January public opinion poll commissioned by the Deseret News, 70 percent of the county's residents back further development of the park.In the poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, 50 percent of the respondents agreed that the state park definitely should be developed further as a tourist attraction. Twenty percent agreed it probably should, totaling 70 percent.

Of those polled, 11 percent said the island probably should not be further developed, and 16 percent said it definitely should not be pursued. Three percent volunteered they don't have an opinion.

The state park was closed in 1983 when rising waters of the Great Salt Lake smashed the causeway leading to the island and battered the park's beaches, campgrounds and picnic facilities.

As the lake began falling three years ago, the remains of the causeway reappeared, and county officials starting lobbying the state to rebuild it and reopen the island, best known for its herd of 500 buffalo.

The state balked, especially when UDOT estimated it could take up to $14 million to rebuild and pave the seven-mile causeway.

At that point, the county first assumed a stance it has repeatedly, and effectively, taken with the state: If you don't want to do it, give it to us.

The state turned over the causeway, and about $4 million, to the county, which is in the final stages of rebuilding it. Only a bridge that allows equalization of the lake's north and south arms remains unfinished.

Before the last Legislature convened in January, county officials met in a dinner session with Davis lawmakers and repeated their stand, this time a bit more forcefully: If you won't fund the island park's complete restoration, sign it over to us.

"Davis County has always been the frontrunner in promoting a causeway and Antelope Island," county economic development director Rick Mayfield told the legislators last fall.

"County officials have stepped forward to get the causeway reconstructed. We have used county resources to see that there is a road to a state park to benefit the entire state when in reality all other state parks are developed with state money.

"In fairness, Antelope Island State Park ought to be fully developed immediately with state money," Mayfield told them. "If the state Legislature is not interested in seeing this great resource developed they ought to give consideration to leasing the island to the county for development and promotion."

It worked. Lawmakers appropriated nearly $1 million for capital improvements on the island, and an additional $350,000 in grant funds was made available specifically for refurbishing the island park's marina.

When will it reopen? That question is unresolved and has county and state officials somewhat at odds.

The county is pushing hard to reopen the island by Memorial Day to begin generating revenue for further work on the park and to get the tourism flow moving.

The state, however, is holding firm for an opening no sooner than fall, saying facilities and utilities won't be ready before then.

Deseret News poll

In your opinion, should Antelope Island be further developed as a tourist attraction?

Definitely should 50%

Probably should 20%

Probably should not 11%

Definitely should not 16%

Don't know (VOL) 3%

Number polled: 400. Error margin: +/- 5 percent.

Conducted Jan. 4-9, 1993. Dan Jones and Associates.

Copyright 1993 Deseret News

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