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Utah budget qualms kill legislative proposal for new dinosaur park

Utahraptor State Park dies due to dollars

SHARE Utah budget qualms kill legislative proposal for new dinosaur park

A Utahraptor skull reconstruction is displayed during a press conference at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, to discuss HB322, which would create Utahraptor State Park in the Dalton Wells area near Moab.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Jitters over an uncertain state budget picture led lawmakers on a legislative committee to decide Monday against a measure for creating the Utahraptor State Park near Moab, even though the proposal contained fail-safe provisions for having the dollars in place before it even moved forward.

The proposal by Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, called for $10 million in funding for the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation to transform the popular camping destination into a park with the attendant amenities, but with the caveat that the money is available. The money would have allowed the state parks division to put in necessary water and sewer infrastructure.

The state park would protect, preserve and celebrate Dalton Wells Quarry in Grand County where the Utahraptor’s first fossils were discovered. Located about 15 miles northwest of Moab and west of Arches National Park, Dalton Wells is among the quarries that rim the Cedar Mountain Formation, which contains one of the richest early Cretaceous dinosaur bone deposits in the world, dated over 125 million years ago. The quarry is right on the Dinosaur Diamond National Scenic Byway.

The bill said the park would not be a “park” per se until money was available, but lawmakers expressed concerns that such a commitment would be untenable in this year’s budget scenario.

But Dave Ure, head of the Utah School and Trust Lands Administration, said something needs to be done to correct the degradation that is happening in the area.

“I don’t think perfect should be the enemy of good in this situation.”

Ure added that his administration spent $60,000 to put in a pair of pit toilets in the proposed park boundaries, which were filled up quickly.

“It is literally turning into a wasteland,” he said. “It is a jungle.”

Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, said he had “grave doubts” that the park would get the funding request given the dynamics of questions over the state budget.

The measure died in the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Agriculture Committee on a 3-3 vote.