Destination development projects in Washington County continue to grow – St George News


A trail leader guides a rider through an obstacle during the 2020 Winter 4×4 Jamboree, Sand Mountain, Utah, January 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Desert Roads and Trails Society, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Destination development projects in Washington County are in full swing. According to the Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Bureau, more than $25 million in tourism-generated funds has been distributed to county projects in the past 10 years.

Players compete in the USA Pickleball Association West Regional Tournament on the fields of the Little Valley pickleball complex in St. George, Utah April 22, 2017 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St George News

The tourism board released updates on projects under development in 2022 during the week of June 20-26. The list includes maintenance of existing venues and infrastructure, as well as new assets. Utah legislature requires counties statewide to spend at least 47% on developing and promoting tourism. Greater Zion spends 53% on tourism-related projects and infrastructure, said Kevin Lewis, Greater Zion’s convention and tourism director.

He also said Greater Zion’s mission is to use the funds generated from tourism to create a superior experience for locals, not just visitors. In addition to developing infrastructure, trails and facilities, they address the future needs of the area. The group works closely with community leaders, land managers and local residents.

“As the city grows, so do the amenities, and there’s a bit of give and take,” Lewis said. “If you look at the big metros, as they grow, they start building, and private investment goes with it. It’s not all public investment and I think you’ll see that here. As we continue to grow.”

Funds from temporarily accommodating visitors are known as the through room tax and fund the projects. Lewis explained that a Washington County town or group could seek assistance from the Great Zion Tourism Association. They apply through the board, which recommends specific proposals to the district commission.

Sand Mountain is a popular area for off-road vehicles, St. George, Utah, July 3, 2021 | Photo by Jeri Politte, St George News

“The Commission ultimately approves the use of the funds that incorporate the information we have into the application process,” he said.

Local projects have benefited from tourism dollars, including:

  • The Zion Corridor Trail
  • State Route 18 Paved Trail
  • St. George Little Valley Lawn Improvements
  • St. George Little Valley Pickleball Improvements
  • Spring Hollow and Grass Mountain Bike Project
  • Santa Clara Canyon View Park/BMX Track
  • Sand Mountain OHV Gathering Point (Waddy’s Parking Corral)
  • Hurricane Trail System (600 N. Trail)
  • Hurricane Equestrian Park

The Zion Corridor Trail is a paved project connecting La Verkin to Springdale and Zion National Park along State Route 9. It will be approximately 18 miles, including an underpass, bridges and boardwalks. The goal is to fill in the gaps and improve active transportation opportunities in the Zion Corridor, said Leslie Fonger, destination development manager, Greater Zion

The estimated cost is $13.5 million, of which $10.8 million will be borne by the Utah Department of Transportation and $2.7 million by Washington County. Groups involved include the Zion Regional Collaborative, Virgin, Rockville, Springdale, La Verkin and Washington County. Fonger said community input is being sought. The project will be completed in 2026.

State Road 18 gets a facelift and combines road widening projects with a paved path. The trail connects Veyo to Central and runs along the east side of State Route 18.

“Cyclists will have a much safer route,” Fonger said.

Lewis added that the increased traffic on this highway and many events in the area led to the approval of this project.

“The marathon is one of those events where people are up there on State Route 18, walking that highway all the time, getting ready for the marathon,” Lewis said. “Like two months ago, if you’ve ever been up there, you’ll see people every morning. It’s a bit more remote in this section, but they want to run the course. And so one of the things in the design was to keep it street level so they can train at the same level, but they’re not really going to be on the street.”

St. George Little Valley Lawn Improvements focus on replacing most of the natural grass on soccer fields with artificial grass. According to Fonger, it reduces water usage and lets the natural grass go dormant. It will also allow off-season use for tournaments and lower maintenance costs.

St. George Little Valley Pickleball Improvements Expand the complex by another 10 courts and add a championship court with stadium seating. Aside from attracting regional and national tournaments throughout the year, local usage of the courts is very high, she said. The project will cost approximately $2 million and is expected to be completed in summer 2023.

Mountain Bike Project Spring Hollow and Grass Valley present new mountain bike trails in the Dixie National Forest to be built in phases over the next few years. Fonger said it includes 44 miles of new trails in the Spring Hollow area and 11 miles of new trails in the Pine Valley area.

There will also be new trailheads, an events area, and a scattered camping area. Add to that about 20 miles of trail at Spring Hollow and a trailhead, as well as the staging and scattered camping areas.

Fonger said the goal is to provide new mountain bike elements that are not currently available in Washington County. It is also designed for competitive racing, downhill and jump lines. Another plus, she said, is the provision of hiking trails at a higher elevation that the public can use during the summer heat.

Funding is estimated at $508,464 for Phase 1 and $288,204 for Phase 2. Washington County’s tourism budget for these expenses totaled $800,000. The Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation has provided $560,000 in grants. The remainder of the funding is provided by Dixie National Forest and donations from the Southern Utah Trail Alliance, Trails Utah and Vacation Races. Fonger said Phase 1 is ongoing and should be Completion by 2022. Phase 2 will begin later this year and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Santa Clara Canyon View Park/BMX Track focuses on Canyon View Park. It includes a BMX track, softball fields and other amenities. New features include a path, parking lots, and toilet upgrades in three phases. The mod boost will increase the ability to host larger BMX, softball, and youth baseball events through the upgrades. Spending totals around $800,000, with Washington County tourism funds contributing $260,000. Completion is expected later in 2022, Fonger said.

Hurricane Trails System (600 N. Trail) is a paved trail that will connect Grandpa’s Pond Park to 200 East in Hurricane. It will partially follow 600 North for five miles and is considered a regionally significant trail project, Fonger said. This complies with Hurricane City’s Active Transportation Plan and improves safety on 600 North while connecting to the regional trail system. Funding is estimated at $2 million, with costs shared between the city and Washington County Tourism Funds.

Hurricane Equestrian Park is located on 40 acres southeast of the airport and will double the capacity of the currently used American Legion Rodeo Arena. The new venue will include a 2,000-seat rodeo facility, restroom building, concession stand, pavilion, parking lots, speaker booth, walking trails and picnic areas.

The new venue will double the size of the American Legion Rodeo Arena currently in use.

“As with many of these other projects, demand is exceeding capacity,” Fonger said.

Not only will this benefit Peach Days, but it will also provide new events and space for families, Fonger added. Funding is provided by Hurricane City and supported by Washington County and other stakeholders. The cost is estimated at $2.4 million. The project also includes night lighting and grandstands, as well as a playground. This project is expected to be completed in 2022.

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