Rockport rolls with recession
July 5, 2011
It will take more than budget cuts and flooding to keep Rockport State Park from filling with visitors during the remainder of summer. In fact, with almost every campground full and various events and expansions planned for the season, the park has never been more popular.
Rockport, located between Peoa and Wanship on State Road 32, offers something for every type of recreationist. In addition to camping, fishing, hiking and boating, visitors can go geocaching or rent various water toys and equipment from the concessionaire.
Overnight camping was full for the Fourth of July weekend and is filling up quickly for the Pioneer Day Holiday, but there are plenty of day-use areas open for a relaxing day inside the park.
"We’ve been full; the campgrounds are all full. Below the dam we’ve put in seven more campsites on the reservations system," said Park Manager Joe Donnell. "We are also in the process of putting in boating campsites that should be completed by midseason."
Reservations for camping can be made in advance and fill up quickly, even with the recent addition of several campsites and more planned.
Besides outdoor activities, visitors can enjoy dances and music festivals held at the "Old Church" located in the campground area below the reservoir. The annual Dam Jam to be held this year on Aug. 12 through 14, is a bluegrass festival open to the public. The event features local bands and a potluck dinner Friday and Saturday nights. Daytime admittance is $5 per vehicle while camping is $2 per person per night.
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In addition to the Dam Jam, the Old Church building, a popular venue for weddings, hoedown style dances and church services, according to Donnell is available for rent. The building is fully restored and is used at least two to three times per month for various activities.
With the Weber River emptying directly into the reservoir, flooding will be an issue for the fully-booked park this weekend, although the late snowmelt hasn’t been all bad for business.
"The fact that the Uintas are still (mostly) closed means we’ve been seeing more visitors. They’ve still got three to eight feet of snow in some places," said Donnell. "Right now we have some flooding issues. Some campsites in Cottonwood campground are under water. We have had to move people around to day-use areas to accommodate them. We are hoping the flood waters recede."
In addition to flooding, Donnell has been faced with the task of operating under a tight budget, one that was cut "dramatically" at the beginning of the fiscal year by about $3 million (from $9.8 to 6.8 million) and could possibly be reduced to $4 million next year if more funds can’t be appropriated.
Despite having to make reductions in the maintenance and gate crews, Donnell said, at least for this year, visitors won’t notice much of a difference in park appearance.
"There may be a reduction in maintenance of campgrounds closing earlier if we can’t justify the electric bills," explained Donnell. "The big kick right now is trying to make more money, increase revenue and decrease expenses. That’s why, even with reduced funds, we’ve been adding campsites and increasing boat storage."
Donnell, who described the cutbacks as "significant," said that 26 full-time employees have been laid off statewide while "complex" manager positions responsible for multiple parks have been created to fill the gaps.
"The money required to make up the entire budget is equal to what it would cost if every Utahn bough a Happy Meal," said Donnell. "What we’re saying is it’s not much to support your local state parks."
For more information regarding conditions or rentals at Rockport State Park, please call 435-336-2241. For camping reservations call 1-800-322-3770 or visit the Utah State Parks Website at http://www.stateparks.ut.gov.