Building a Visitor Education Center for Geology, Wildflowers, and Night Sky at Cedar Breaks
Cedar Breaks National Monument has welcomed 27 million recreational visitors over the last 85 years. Since 1972, park staff has been answering guest questions via a desk in a Civilian Conservation Corps ranger cabin. It’s barely 650 square feet, yet this tiny space is currently trying to accommodate nearly a million visitors a year.
Beginning in 1984, with roughly a third of the current number of visitors, Cedar Breaks began visioning a new facility with space for educational displays and other attributes National Park visitor centers are known for. In the 1984 General Management Plan, Cedar Breaks hoped “a new visitor center would be constructed using design sensitive to the existing landscape” which would “provide visitor orientation, interpretation and sales services.” Thirty-five years later, the dream for a new visitors facility at Point Supreme is coming to fruition through the significant efforts of the park, the Zion Forever Project, Iron County, and other stakeholders.
“Constructing a Visitor Education Center will assist park staff in providing quality services for our visitors,” explains Superintendent Kathleen Gonder. “This facility will provide new exhibits, expanded book sales area, increased restroom facilities as well as outdoor covered space for interpretive programs and shelter. The Visitor Education Center will provide visitors with a “Sense of Place” as they learn and experience the high alpine and dark sky wonders of Cedar Breaks National Monument.”
With $300,000 in start-up funding from the Iron County Restaurant Tax Program in 2018 and 2019, the preliminary site plans have been produced. This legacy-making contribution from Iron County made a match grant from the National Park Service Centennial Challenge Fund possible. Maria Twitchell, Executive Director of the Cedar City-Brian Head Tourism Bureau details, “We are thrilled to help fund this next chapter for Cedar Breaks. The new center will vastly improve the overall visitor experience and encourage more in-depth exploration and understanding of the monument by visitors and locals as well.”
As we move into Phase II of Forever Project-led support, we are looking for like-minded partners who are deeply committed to educating generations of guests coming to Cedar Breaks for award-winning Dark Sky summer programs and wildflower festivals. Iron County school children will visit on field trips, Southern Utah University students will fulfill internships exploring public lands careers, and hopefully, regional young adults will begin their nonprofit or agency careers in this new permanent structure. With construction slated to begin in 2021, the opportunity to improve today’s experience at Cedar Breaks is now.