Like anything else, Utah state parks age or even go wanting for the right kind of amenities to boost the visitor experience.

The Utah Division of Parks has embarked on an extensive overhaul at Echo in Coalville, one so ambitious there will be an official celebration this spring marking its “extreme makeover.”

“While the low water levels have been good to that extent,” the overhaul at the park involves so much more than dramatically extending the boat ramp, said Devan Chavez, park spokesman.

“It is going to look amazing,” he said, adding there will be improvements to the day use area and tiny homes available to rent, similar to those at Jordanelle State Park.

Both Echo and Lost Creek are recent additions to the park division’s portfolio of recreational offerings, so the need for renovations got a kickstart. Red Fleet State Park near Vernal will also see some improvements.

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Echo State Park is getting some new improvements to its infrastructure in Coalville on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. | Ben B. Braun, Deseret News

‘Crown jewels’

The outbreak of COVID-19, first officially reported in March of 2020, brought lockdowns, restrictions on air travel and social distancing rules to help stave off the highly contagious virus.

People began to head to state parks as a close, outdoor recreation alternative as opposed to some of the better known, crowded national parks.

Park visitation logs show that between July 2020 and May 2021, more than 1.2 million people visited a state park, and with their visit to any one of those 46 parks those people brought their own wear and tear.

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Like its sister agency, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has been busy making improvements, including a bank/boat access ramp on the Green River in city limits and restroom relocation at Big Sand Wash Reservoir in Duchesne County, which will be more convenient for visitors.

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There are also plans to expand parking at Utah Lake’s Lindon Marina and replace aging restroom facilities at Big Sand Wash Reservoir so they are ADA compliant.

“These projects provide public access to satisfying and safe boating and fishing experiences on public lakes, reservoirs and rivers across the state,” said the division’s assistant chief of fisheries Craig Walker.

While Chavez also noted there have always been well known “stars” of the state park system, the pandemic changed all that, pumping new loyalty into lesser known parks — which is a good thing.

“Each of these parks is different,” he said. “They have their own spirit, their own different soul.”

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