Plans for Echo Reservoir, Utah’s newest state park, unfolding
Joy Ray, a Coalville resident who handled the management of Echo Reservoir for nearly 50 years, “did a good job,” according to Rick Baxter, of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
However, Baxter, the division manager over water, environment and land with the Bureau of Reclamation, said as soon as the reservoir is under the management of Utah State Parks, “we want to bring it up a couple more steps.” The Bureau of Reclamation has owned Echo Dam since it was constructed in 1968 on the north end of the 1,400-acre body of water outside of Coalville.
In February, the Board of Utah State Parks and Recreation passed a resolution on Feb. 22 to adopt Echo Reservoir as the newest state park. Utah State Parks will handle the day-to-day management once the agreement to turn the privately owned recreation resort over to a federal agency is finalized. The Bureau of Reclamation will retain ownership of the dam.
Utah State Parks is working on creating a long-term development plan for the reservoir, which will include the addition of outdoor facilities and development of new access points.
“State Parks is a professional group when they are running the show and they do a heck of a job,” Baxter said.
Last month, a public meeting and open house was held at Jordanelle State Park for stakeholders and community members to gain a better understanding of what is being proposed, as well as provide input.
“We felt it was very important to involve the public to the degree they chose,” Baxter said. “We provided a draft of ideas of things we can use that she already had there and what we can to make it a nice, new state park. We want to rejuvenate and renew existing facilities.”
One of the issues that emerged from the meeting, Baxter said, was a desire for more wakeless areas on the south end of the reservoir and east of the existing boat ramp. He said there was also a significant amount of interest in creating a new access point for people so they could float tubes or kayak.
“We want to really pay attention to those comments and what people are telling us,” he said.
Baxter admitted some of the previously allowed activities will no longer be authorized once the reservoir is under the management of Utah State Parks. He added, “It’s important that we are honest and upfront.”
“The former contract permitted long-term camping in all seasons,” he said. “People could go in and be there from Memorial Day to Labor Day. But, based on federal law, that is something that we cannot allow. We have to say sorry upfront because that is not in accordance with our regulations.”
Utah State Parks’ management will also include the presence of law enforcement, something the previous management was not able to provide.
Summit County Council members met with representatives from the Bureau of Reclamation and Utah State Parks on March 26 to explore the preliminary plans. County Council Chair Kim Carson said she appreciates that there will be more oversight of the activities at the park.
“I think that is a good thing,” she said. “It has been ran by a private person up to this point, and, while I think it was overall pretty well run for years, there have been a lot of complaints of people who would go up and park trailers for the entire summer. I think there was also a lot of parties, and those living in close proximity experienced a lot of negative impacts.”
Another public meeting is scheduled to be held at the North Summit High School on May 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. An online public comment period will also be open near that time for those who can’t attend the meeting.
The plans will then go through a process to determine whether there could be any significant impacts from the construction to the environment or nearby wildlife. Baxter said the building of the state park amenities will commence if none are found.
“It will really be dependent on what we find, but if we can get this agreement in place, then construction of some of the amenities could take place as soon as this summer.”
There will be some closed areas and inconveniences throughout construction, Baxter said, as work will occur in some of the common areas that people use. But, he said the construction won’t take place over one summer. It will likely occur over a three- to five-year time period.
“The building of the state park will be phased,” he said. “We will be working in a fall time when the main boating season is over and after that from the winter into the spring again to have minimal amounts of disturbances.”
The Bureau of Reclamation plans to share the cost with the state. But, the price tag will depend on the final designs.
“We just want to make things nicer and clean and more family friendly,” Baxter said.
Utah State Parks currently manages 11 other state parks that are owned by the Bureau of Reclamation, including the Jordanelle Reservoir, Deer Creek Reservoir and Rockport Reservoir. Echo Reservoir will be the 12th.
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Starting Friday, fires and charcoal grilling will only be allowed in improved fire pits or grills on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.