By Lyman Hafen
Executive Director, Zion Natl Park Forever Project
Albert Einstein said the only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once. In Zion Canyon we’re engulfed in time. Time below us, time above us, time laid down beside us in the miniscule grains of sand that form the rock our shoulders brush as we hike up the trail. Here, the pages of time lie atop one another in layers of sedimentary rock, and the higher we climb, the closer we come to the most recent page of which we are such a small part. Our human minutes, hours, days, even years, barely register a blip on the canyon’s timeline. Yet, the past year here in Zion has been one to mark and remember.
When we launched the Zion Natl Park Forever Project last May at a special event at the Springhill Suites in Springdale, Utah, we shared a hopeful vision of what it could mean for the future of the park. But we could not have imagined how quickly that dream would unfold and how so many people who love and care about Zion would seamlessly connect the dots and not only catch the vision, but begin to enhance and magnify it in significant ways. As part of the launch, we unveiled the 2018 Zion National Park Field Guide to Park Priority Projects. It included descriptions of more than 20 important needs in the park and what it would take to fund them. For the first time, we documented in detail the park’s funding needs and began to reach out to the world in a determined manner for support.
The result: This month, January, 2018, we held another special gathering of guests, supporters, partners and stakeholders at the Springhill Suites to announce and celebrate the funding of 22 of those projects, amounting to a value of more than $1 million. (See details below.)
Inside that span of less than a year, during which the Virgin River carried away a mere fraction of an inch of Zion Canyon, the Forever Project was launched, implemented and began to flourish at a rate far beyond projections. Following the initial launch event in Springdale, we held another in St. George, Utah, in early June at the Stephen Wade Mercedes Benz dealership. Again, the turnout and expression of support from the St. George business community, led by the example of Stephen Wade himself, was off the charts. Then on to Salt Lake City in late June where two of the original founders of the Zion Circle, Scott Anderson of Zions Bank, and Kem Gardner of the Gardner Companies, hosted an event at the Red Butte Gardens on the campus of the University of Utah. The concluding speaker at that event was Governor Gary Herbert of the State of Utah, who spoke enthusiastically about the importance of the Zion Forever Project and the need for everyone who cares about Zion to support it.
In the meantime, a number of fundraising strategies were taking hold, beginning with the simple idea of visitors “rounding-up” for Zion, at the cash registers in the park visitor centers. Or donating $50 to become part of the Zion Circle, or adopting a bighorn, or responding with a donation on our website or as a result of the direct mail campaign we instituted. And private businesses stepped forward to become proud partners of the Zion Forever Project by donating for every night’s stay at their hotel, or meal served in their restaurant. Behind the scenes we were also working on grant applications for specific park projects from foundations and other sources, most of which allowed us to leverage raised funds as a match for the grant.
In early November the Forever Project’s 9th annual Zion Plein Air Art Invitational was once again a success, adding significantly to the year’s fund raising total. During Plein Air, we gained another perspective of time in the canyon as we witnessed amazing works of art and varying interpretations of the canyon come to life before our eyes in as little as one hour. It’s a transformative experience to stand in the canyon that’s been millions of years in the making and watch it re-created on canvas in a matter of minutes.
As 2017 came to an end and we began to assess the impact of the first year of the Forever Project, it was tremendously gratifying to see the difference this initiative could make in one year. That’s why we wanted to share it with you here. It was but one year in the “round of centuries” this canyon has passed through, but it was certainly one to mark and to remember, and all of us at the Zion Forever Project thank you for helping make it so.