For some, the island is a mystical, almost magical place. For others, it's a microcosm of the West, a wild and lonely place that also bears the imprint of mankind.
Those were the impressions shared Thursday by state and local officials at the reopening ceremony of Antelope Island State Park.Lt. Gov. Olene Walker said that as a child, she used to gaze across the Great Salt Lake at the island from her family farm, imagining that someday she would build a castle and live a solitary life on the island.
That won't happen now, she admitted a bit sadly, because the island park attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world.
"I look forward to it being one of the major visitor attractions in the state, but I'm a little reluctant to see it losing that solitude and peace," she said.
Walker stood in for Gov. Mike Leavitt, who is in Washington, D.C., meeting with federal EPA officials.
Ted Stewart, director of the Department of Natural Resources, said the island has a mystical quality and visitors come away with the feeling they're the first ones to set foot on it.
It has had that quality ever since the first Mormon pioneers visited it a few weeks after they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, Stewart said, reading from an early account of one of the island's settlers.
There were suggestions as early as 1903 that the island be preserved as a park, Stewart said. Some suggested it be made a national park.
Stewart pledged to use his department's resources to preserve those qualities of the park as it's developed.
Stewart and the other speakers praised the partnership between Davis County and state parks officials that resulted in the rebuilding of the causeway over the past two years and reopening of the park.
Parks Division Director Courtland Nelson said public input is being sought on how the facility should be developed, using public hearings and visitor surveys.
The re-opening ceremony, held near the buffalo corrals, was a low-key, casual affair. Attire of the dignitaries ranged from coats and ties to blue jeans and T-shirts, with Rep. Nancy Lyon, R-Bountiful, sporting bike shorts and a "House of Representatives" T-shirt.
Lyon joined a bike tour of the island held after the ceremony.
Instead of a ribbon-cutting, the officiating politicians participated in a buffalo-chip tossing contest, a feat for which they admitted they are uniquely qualified.
Sen. Lane Beattie, R-Bountiful, had the longest toss and Nelson declared them all tied in the form competition.