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PIONEER SPIRIT GLEAMS THROUGH THE DUST

With oxen, tractors, geese, trucks, roosters and ladders, This Is The Place State Park looks more like a bad day at the zoo than a monument to pioneer settlers.

But beneath the dust of construction lies the beginnings of a historic re-creation, a park illumined with the strength and vision of the pioneers it honors."It's an unusual state park," admits Allen Lundgren, media coordinator for the project. "This park is focused on the culture and history of people while others are about natural phenomenons. We are trying to teach about people's lives and the culture they created."

Scattered throughout the park's 60-acre village are 13 buildings that made up the park before renovation began last spring. Lundgren says immediate expansion plans include 20 more buildings, and later on, a replica of an Indian village as well as a sawmill and a fishery.

Construction efforts will be in full swing through the summer and fall. Lundgren hopes the new visitors center, modeled after the sugar factory that gave Sugarhouse its name, will have its roof before winter.

Up a dirt Main Street is a newly completed mercantile store, soon to be stocked with dry goods and clothing of the era. A bank, a hotel and several homes will soon join the store on this temporarily dusty and deserted road.

"Things are really popping now," says Lundgren with a smile of excitement.

The newest residents of the park, two stocky white oxen named Pat and Mike, are the first of many animals that will make the park their home. Various agricultural organizations throughout the state will help keep the farm full of animals."We plan to make them earn their keep," Lundgren says as the oxen sun themselves in the center of a large corral. "They'll pull logs and plow these fields."

The farmland that surrounds the recently renovated Brigham Young home is normally covered with alfalfa, orchards and crops. This year, the land is covered with wildflowers instead. The farm will be back in operation next year.

By June 1996, the park's first phase of renovation will be complete. Center Street and Main Street will be filled with replicated homes and buildings. Some homes will be moved from their original locations throughout the state.

The park is closed to the public until sometime next year. Visitors can, however, take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the village, and the Brigham Young home is open to the public during renovations.

And even as the roar of construction disrupts the oxen as they lounge, the poplar lined streets and newly renovated homes almost erase memories of the city that lies beneath this village on the hill.

From here, said Lundgren, "you can easily imagine what the pioneers saw when they came through this canyon and looked across the valley to the glittering salt sea in the west."