Echo Canyon Tourist Center reopens under private ownership
Local business owner finances information center restoration
Last year, when local business owner Glen Overton learned that the state had closed the Echo Canyon Tourist Center on Interstate 80, he felt compelled to save it.
Overton, one of the owners of Hotel Park City, had previously served on the state’s tourism board and was “really disappointed” the center would no longer be open to serve travelers as they entered Summit County.
Overton decided to enlist the help of his close friend, Gary Coleman, to “get everything back to the way it originally was.” Coleman, who is now the director of the center, said Overton signed the lease on Oct. 24 and reopened the center, located on Interstate 80 in Echo Canyon, shortly after.
“So many people have told us they are so happy that we are open and they were disappointed when we closed,” Coleman said. “I have been surprised by the number of people who are still coming in this time of year.”
The Echo Canyon Tourist Center was one of five state welcome centers before it closed in April of 2016. In the 1990s, the center averaged between 125,000 to 150,000 visitors a year, according to Sandra Morrison, former director.
“It was the first place to stop when you crossed the state line,” Morrison said. “Back then, I did a lot of handwritten maps for people because it was before everyone became mobile.”
Morrison said she would be impressed by the visitors who stopped in the center because they “would just get in their car and start driving across the country.” She remembered how shocked they would be by the mountains as they entered Summit County after traveling across Wyoming.
Morrison said the state closed the building because it was the lowest performing visitor’s center in the network. She said most of the truck drivers and travelers were only using the restrooms.
“I think it also had to with the fact that Park City Chamber of Commerce had opened up their lovely facility at Kimball Junction and, then of course, most people now receive their tourist information online,” Morrison said.
Since reopening the center under private ownership, visitors are now able to purchase snacks, warm beverages and state souvenirs. Several displays and brochures about National Parks, and winter and outdoor activities are featured in the facility.
“We’ve been setting up retail displays and putting in some furniture to make it look nice. We really cleaned it up well and have been adding to it little-by-little almost every day,” Coleman said.
Coleman said he is currently working with the Utah Department of Transportation to place signs along the Interstate to let people know the center is open to the public again.
“Those who have frequented the facility in the past have said what a change it is and how beautiful it is,” Coleman said. “We have tried to make it very earthy and very Utah to greet people as they enter our state.”
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The Coalville native doesn’t see any major roadblocks for this year’s fair, though presenting in front of the County Council is a little nerve wracking.