Founding Zion’s Next 100 Years through the East Zion Initiative
“What is on my mind with this project is the next generation. There is a lot of work to be done to change the narrative from overcrowded and underfunded, but this represents a bright message, a banner entity to serve youth looking toward the future.”
-KEVIN & STACY MCLAWS, FOUNDERS, ZION MOUNTAIN RANCH
With more than one million annual visitors entering Zion via its east entrance with limited visitor services (a Ranger at the entrance booth and two pit toilets), the east side Visitor Contact Station will provide visitors needed orientation, access to permits, expanded recreation, and active learning programs aligned with the park’s mission. Zion National Park and the Zion Forever Project are embracing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect the integrity of the greater Zion experience on the east side of the park that extends and connects to existing visitor services in our Springdale and Kanab gateway communities.
“The East Zion Initiative is an extraordinary opportunity to plan the gateway to a national park that has been in existence for 100 years,” explains Jeff Bradybaugh, Superintendent of Zion National Park. “Thanks to benevolent landowners, the McLaws family, and great local partners, the beauty of this park gateway will be conserved for future generations of park visitors.”
A cross section of stakeholders are collectively advancing the vision of a Visitor Contact Station with an expanded trail network and new transportation hub in East Zion. The McLaws family, founders of Zion Mountain Ranch, are working with leaders from Kane County, the Kanab BLM Field Office, the Utah Department of Transportation, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the Utah Office of Tourism, Zion National Park, and the Zion Forever Project. Founding principles of the East Zion Initiative include providing hands-on agricultural experiences connecting visitors to this heritage landscape through farming, food, and other cultural programs.
Once constructed, the 7,000-square-foot East Zion Visitor Contact Station will provide backcountry permits and trail information, including invitations to hike, run, or bike newly created East Zion trails on the adjacent landscape. The Contact Station will be filled with a museum, exhibits, food, a theater, restrooms, and a Zion Forever park store. Feasibility studies have examined the possibility of a park and ride facility and shuttle service connecting Kane County to Zion Canyon and alleviating parking and traffic congestion inside the park. Road improvements are planned for county roads and State Highway 9.
This committed effort supported by private, public agency, and nonprofit partners stems from a “mission of family,” which creates sustainable economic development within a conservation framework at the eastern gateway to Zion National Park. This project is fully aligned with the park’s planning process and mission to provide exemplary visitor experiences while protecting the integrity of the Zion experience for generations to come.
Groundbreaking is planned for late 2020.