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Bill proposing new Utahraptor State Park near Moab gains traction, moves to House

Southern Utah
The grand opening of the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite near Moab, Utah._1459552340699.PNG

ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4) – A piece of legislation creating a new state park to celebrate Utah’s state dinosaur and protect natural resources in the Moab area is moving to the House floor. 

Utah State Park Amendments, designated as HB 257 in the 2021 Legislature, proposes the creation of Utahraptor State Park in the Dalton Wells area roughly 15 miles northwest of Moab. The 6,500-acre park would offer visitors day-use facilities, 80 campsites with water and power hookups and trail systems for off-roading, mountain biking and hiking.

State paleontologist Jim Kirkland shares that the Dalton Wells area is a treasure trove of dinosaur history with massive deposits of bones. Past discoveries include at least 10 species found nowhere else in the world but Grand County. The first Utahraptor fossil was unearthed at Dalton Wells in 1975. 

A reconstructed Utahraptor skull on display at DinoFest, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Jim Kirkland, St. George News

“It’s a great resource,” he adds. “People come from all over the world.”  

The proposed park also encompasses a site on the National Register of Historic Places, the ruins of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp from the 1930s that was later used during World War II for the internment of Americans of Japanese descent. Kirkland says that in recent years, the land has been plagued by heavy camping traffic, litter and sanitation issues as a result of increased visitation to the Moab area and backcountry camping being prohibited on nearby federal lands. 

On Thursday, Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, presented HB 257 for approval by the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee in a meeting conducted electronically.

A panel of witnesses spoke in support of the bill, including Moab Museum director Forrest Rodgers and Mary McGann, chair of the Grand County Commission. McGann presented a unanimous resolution passed by the commission in support of Utahraptor State Park to aid with management of resources in the area and mitigating the impacts of expanding tourism. 

Jaw bone of a Utahraptor found in the Dalton Wells area, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Jim Kirkland, St. George News

According to the fiscal note, the creation of Utahraptor State Park could incur a one-time expense of $25,659,800 from the General Fund during the fiscal year 2022 for property acquisition and construction costs. The operating costs are estimated at $448,500 annually from the State Park Fees Restricted Account, starting in the fiscal year 2023. 

HB 257 received a favorable recommendation in a vote of 7-1-6. The sole dissenting vote was cast by vice chair Rep. Casey Snider, R-Paradise. 

St.George News shares the full story.

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