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MOST DAVIS RESIDENTS SUPPORT $5 FEE TO VISIT ANTELOPE ISLAND

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Visitors to Antelope Island State Park pay $5 to get into the park - $2 if they are on a bicycle - which is more than the admission fee to any other state park in the Utah system.

Is it too high? According to a Dan Jones & Associates opinion poll earlier this month, almost two-thirds of the 400 Davis County residents responding to the poll said they believe the $5 fee is just about right.The poll found 62 percent saying the fee is about right; 17 percent said it's probably too high and 15 percent said it's definitely too high. Only 1 percent said it's definitely too low.

While other state parks charge only $3 to get in, the fee to enter Antelope Island is $2 more to help pay for the 7.5-mile causeway across the Great Salt Lake that links the park to its eastern terminus in Syracuse.

The causeway was washed out in 1983, closing the park for nearly a decade until Davis County officials began lobbying the Legislature to rebuild it.

The lawmakers eventually agreed to fund its reconstruction, supervised by the county, with the stipulation the county would collect a $2-per-carload extra fee, which goes into a dedicated fund for causeway maintenance.

The county collected around $130,000 in 1994 and expects to collect $140,000 in the coming year.

Jim Fillpot, assistant park manager, said he thinks the extra fee is a good idea because without it the park still would be inaccessible to the public.

Some visitors coming to the park gate initially balk at the extra $2, Fillpot said, but inevitably when rangers explain its genesis and purpose, they agree it's a good idea.

"We explain to them how the causeway was destroyed and it was only through Davis County taking the bull by the horns and going to the Legislature that it was rebuilt and the money is there to do it again if the causeway is washed out again," Fillpot said.

"After we explain that, the people say `great' and then they come on in."

Fillpot said he's not aware of anyone who, faced with the $5 fee, has actually turned around and not entered the park.

"We get a few that try and sneak in when they think the entrance gate isn't manned," said Fillpot.

"We can't keep a ranger there all the time, so when it's not manned, we have the `Iron Ranger.' It's a system where you put the entrance fee in an envelope, put the envelope in the box - the Iron Ranger - and put a receipt in your windshield so when a ranger sees you driving around on the island, we know you've paid.

"We get a few people who sneak in, but the rangers carry the envelopes with them and when we see someone, we just give them the envelope and ask them to pay," Fillpot said.

"We have the option of issuing a citation, but as rangers we'd rather act as hosts than law enforcement officers," said Fillpot, who added that no citations for skipping the entrance fee to the island have been issued.

Bicyclists are required to pay a $2 fee, Fillpot said, and most of them are glad to do it.

"We have a designated bike lane on the causeway and most of them say it's the best bike lane near an urban area in the state," Fillpot said. "It's a 7.5-mile bike lane on some of the flattest, most scenic road in the state and they can really get on it. They like it," Fillpot said.

So many bikers are driving to the causeway's east end, parking their cars and then riding out that it's creating a parking and congestion problem.

Davis County recently sent a letter to the North Davis Sewer District, which owns the land around the causeway's eastern terminus, asking to buy an acre of property at the site to pave a parking lot and build a restroom facility.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Davis County poll

Is the $5 fee to visit Antelope Island too high, too low or just about right?

DEFINITELY TOO HIGH 15%

PROBABLY TOO HIGH 17%

ABOUT RIGHT 62%

PROBABLY TOO LOW 0%

DEFINITELY TOO LOW 1%

DON'T KNOW 5%

Poll conducted Dec. 5-10, 1994. Margin of error +/-5% on interviews of 400 registered voters. Conducted by Dan Jones & Associates. Copyright 1994 Deseret News. Dan Jones & Associates, an independent organization founded in 1980, polls for the Deseret News and KSL. Its clients include other organizations and some political candidates.