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HERITAGE PARK: EXPANSION OF THIS IS THE PLACE STATE PARK TO BE A CENTENNIAL CENTERPIECE.

Starting its second hundred years, Utah should have an impressive and viable legacy from its first century, state leaders have decided.

A bigger and better This Is the Place State Park will be that legacy as plans now in progress come to fruition. The Utah Statehood Centennial Commission has adopted expansion of the park into a major outdoor historical museum as a centerpiece of the many activities that will focus on the 100th anniversary of statehood.Utah joined the Union on Jan. 4, 1896, after a long struggle for recognition. Activities commemorating the century anniversary next winter already have begun, and hundreds of events are scheduled. But the park development will be the 100-year showcase.

"The commission decided we must leave a lasting legacy from our centennial," said Stephen M. Studdert, commission chairman.

Thirty-five proposals from around the state were considered, but it was determined that the park, already in existence, was the best possible target for a project to last far beyond the centennial year.

"The park ought to be a true treasure for the state," Studdert said. "It relates both to Utah history and to the spirit of Utah."

As the state began looking toward the centennial, former Gov. Norm Bangerter gave his blessing to the park project, with the understanding that state funding would be limited. To date the only state money to underwrite the project is $2.4 million for the new visitors center.

The commission wanted to meet two goals in the park, Studdert said. The first is a replication of the Utah settlement period from 1847 to 1869, which is, in many respects, the history of Latter-day Saint influence. But the park also must acknowledge other elements that contributed to the state's history.

Old Deseret Village accomplishes the first objective, and other additions will note the influence of Utah's American Indians, Spanish explorers, fur traders, trappers and mountain men who preceded the Mormons, he said.

As envisioned, the park will provide Utahns of all ages, as well as visitors to the state, a glimpse into the lives of the pioneers who settled in a barren corner of the Great Basin and built it into a state.

Established by the Legislature in 1959, the park was first named Pioneer Trail. It was renamed to more closely tie it to the pioneer theme. The current name reflects an oft-quoted declaration by pioneer leader Brigham Young, who sure for the state," Studdert said. "It relates both to Utah history and to the spirit of Utah."

As the state began looking toward the centennial, former Gov. Norm Bangerter gave his blessing to the park project, with the understanding that state funding would be limited. To date the only state money to underwrite the project is $2.4 million for the new visitors center.

The commission wanted to meet two goals in the park, Studdert said. The first is a replication of the Utah settlement period from 1847 to 1869, which is, in many respects, the history of Latter-day Saint influence. But the park also must acknowledge other elements that contributed to the state's history.

Old Deseret Village accomplishes the first objective, and other additions will note the influence of Utah's American Indians, Spanish explorers, fur traders, trappers and mountain men who preceded the Mormons, he said.

As envisioned, the park will provide Utahns of all ages, as well as visitors to the state, a glimpse into the lives of the pioneers who settled in a barren corner of the Great Basin and built it into a state.

Established by the Legislature in 1959, the park was first named Pioneer Trail. It was renamed to more closely tie it to the pioneer theme. The current name reflects an oft-quoted declaration by pioneer leader Brigham Young, who reportedly said upon entering Salt Lake Valley, "This is the right place. Drive on."

A study undertaken by the Utah Department of Natural Resources' Office of Energy and Resource Planning estimates a $14 million price tag for a five-phase plan to create a new visitors center, significantly expand Old Deseret Village, build an education center and develop a "settlement trail."

Old Deseret Village, where 15 historic structures already are located, will re-create as nearly as possible actual conditions in a Utah community in the period from 1847, when the first LDS pioneers entered Salt Lake Valley, to 1869, when the railroad brought Utah Territory within easier reach of the rest of the United States.

Planners hope that a significant amount of the money can be raised from private sources and that voluntarism will help keep the project self-supporting. A brochure explaining the project and soliciting help will be distributed statewide.

Studdert said he has been impressed by the "absolutely extraordinary response" he has felt as he and others have approached potential donors. "They feel it is an honor to give something back to the state that helped make them successful," he said.

Ultimately, the goal is to have a financially self-sustaining facility operating under the Division of Parks and Recreation.

Besides giving Utahns a place "of their own" that they can visit with pride, the park could fill an untapped tourism niche, Studdert said. The park could logically be the hub of a network of tourist attractions on the city's east side.

Ground preparation began several weeks ago for the $2.4 million visitors center, a 9,600-square-foot building that is a re-creation of the old sugar factory erected in Sugar House in 1853. Utah National Guard volunteers spent several weekends preparing the site as their contribution to the Utah Centennial.

The three-story center will feature a theater, lobby displays, gift and book store, said Allen Roberts of Cooper/Roberts Architects, which designed the building. The architectural firm, which specializes in historic duplication or restoration, will continue as a consultant on the various projects.

Roberts said his firm was able to locate the original drawings of the sugar factory, which was designed by noted pioneer architect Truman O. Angell, also the Salt Lake Temple architect. The plans were in the LDS Church archives.

"So, we weren't just making up a building," Roberts said. Because the original building was designed to sit against a hill, it is ideal for the park location, which also has a slope, he said.

Also planned is a $360,000 restoration of This Is the Place Monument, which was dedicated in 1947 when Utah celebrated the centennial of the arrival of the pioneers in Salt Lake Valley. The impressive monument is deteriorating from weather effects and poor maintenance and will be upgraded, said Roberts.

Several of the proposals for the park were contained in a master plan developed by the state division in the 1970s, he said. The plan has been resurrected and reworked for the centennial project.

A group of Utahns interested in This Is the Place development visited "living legacy" projects around the country as a prelude to creating Utah's own unique heritage park. The state will borrow ideas from such heritage sites as Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, said Nancy Devenport, development coordinator for the Division of Parks and Recreation.

"Sturbridge (a colonial-era recreation) is the closest to what we want to be," Devenport said.

Planners hope for at least 15 more buildings in Old Deseret Village. A list of the proposed buildings was released during an announcement about the visitors center last month. Proposals include a school-church meetinghouse, res-taurant-cafe, bakery, cabinet and furniture shop, novelty store, wagon-carriage shop-livery, barber shop, confectionery, newspaper and printing office, jewelry-watch shop, photography shop, drugstore, pottery with kiln, flour mill and saw mill-lumber company.

Several private individuals or groups already have committed to donate additions to Old Deseret.

The Jon Hunstman Family philanthropy has already agreed to underwrite a replica of the old Huntsman Hotel, which was a stopping place for visitors to Fillmore in the pre-railroad era. Whether the hotel will actually offer lodging or be used for other purposes is still being discussed.

The Huntsman organization also will finance a replica of the home of pioneer leader and scholar Parley P. Pratt.

The Utah Homebuilders Association has agreed to finance and build yet another pioneer-era home, and NuSkin International will shoulder the costs of a vintage barber shop.

Planners believe Old Deseret will offer excellent opportunities for concessionaires such as craftsmen who can re-create pioneer activities for paying audiences or can sell their products, Roberts said.

In anticipation of increased visitation to the park, two ranger positions have been redefined.

Janet Ellingson recently was hired as a park historian and Annette Tanner will oversee docent activities, including training of volunteer docents to help explain exhibits to visitors.

Victor Wallen is curator of education and will coordinate volunteer training as well as designing and implementing interpretative materials. He also will prepare a school outreach program and coordinate special events.

"What we are trying to celebrate is the spirit of Utah," Studdert said, "The fact that all the extraordinary success we are experiencing today is a direct result of the early people of the state."

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Additional Information

Park closures

Expansion plans at This Is the Place State Park will require that parts of the park be closed intermittently to visitors over the next 18 months.

The park, located near Hogle Zoo at 2601 Sunnyside Ave., charges a $1 per person entry fee.

However, the Brigham Young forest farmhouse, recently restored, will remain open. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

Activities usually held at the park also will be scaled back because of construction. Celebrations still are planned for June 3 to commemorate Brigham Young's birthday; July 4, Independence Day; and July 24, Pioneer Day.

Colorado Stables, the park concessionaire, will offer horse-drawn wagon rides from Memorial Day weekend through Labor day. The cost of the ride is included in the park entrance fee.

Reservations for Social Hall, Rotary Glen and the amphitheater may be made through the concessionaire. Call 582-2443.

Beginning in May, a chuck wagon dinner will be available by reservation.

For information and to stay current on what is open or closed at the park, call Mark Hadley, 538-7222, or Mary Tullius, 538-7336.