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Supporters hope for new Hole in the Rock state park

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker, backed by local county commissioners and the state parks division, wants to celebrate and protect a piece of Utah's cultural heritage with a designation for a new state park — for the Hole in the Rock area.

The area under consideration in Rep. Keven Stratton's HB430 is 6,000 acres and includes what is now known as the Hole in the Rock Trail, traveled by an expedition of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1880. The land is owned and managed by the Bureau of Land Management, although there is a parcel that is owned by the church.

The Orem Republican's bill calls for the establishment of a new park on the western rim of the Glenn Canyon National Recreation Area in cooperation with the federal agency through either a trade or some other land acquisition method. He said it would be a multiyear process and the parks division would conduct a feasibility study to determine how much upgrades would cost to boost the visitor experience.

Garfield County Commissioner Leland Pollock said such a designation and its accompanying improvements would be a great benefit for both visitors and the county.

"I am really excited about this project," he said. "I see no issues that should come up about it."

Pollock and others have been in Washington, D.C., to press their case, with the commissioner pointing out that the national director of the BLM, Neil Kornze, is supportive of state and local plans.

Such a designation would not open the area to any motorized travel, but it would allow increased visitor access and improved camping accommodations. Right now, there are only a handful of dispersed camping spots managed by the BLM, according to Wednesday testimony before the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment standing committee.

Stratton said church groups and other organizations wanting to visit the area have been turned away because of the lack of accommodations.

"It will be an additional resource," he said. "It preserves a very, very important part of our state history and allows those who would desire — youth groups and senior citizen groups — to participate in the rich culture the area offers."

The measure passed the committee unanimously.

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com

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