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Provo Area Office Seeks And Shares More Recreation Responsibility

The two little girls in canary yellow life jackets are oblivious. Though surrounded by the sound of jet skis, barbeques and power boats, they sit face to face and heel to heel, contently working. "We're building a tower," announces a toothy 3 year old named Sadie. And with that, she turns back to her sister, and the sticky sand.

This scene might not have been so pristine just two years ago. Back then, the recreational facilities at Deer Creek State Park in northern Utah were in dire need of upgrading. The park shared a condition with many such facilities throughout the state - - exhaustion. "The facilities were built, and there was never a program to come back through and upgrade [them]," says Fred Liljgren, Reclamation's Outdoor Recreation Planner in the Salt Lake Regional Office. "And these facilities, over 20 or 30 years," he says, "have just deteriorated from use and time."

photo: three people on wave runner in lake"Many of the facilities were constructed in the 60's and 70's," adds Jim Jensen, a Landscape Architect for Reclamation's Provo Area Office, "and everybody was in the same boat." He says that was a time of intense recreational construction throughout the Federal Government. "The Park Service had a program called 'Mission 66'," he says, "and the Forest Service had one called 'Operation Outdoors.'" But the problem was that there was little emphasis on upgrading, while the demand on and for water based recreation continued to grow.

"Reclamation, at the time, had a mission to reclaim the arid lands of the West," says Jensen. "So we were constructing dams and providing water and doing those things that were higher on the priority list than initially providing recreation facilities during dam construction," he says. "[Recreation] just didn't rank very high to make the cut in funding."

And there were other problems. For one, it didn't help that those funding limits had been so low. Before 1965, unless funding was authorized, no money could be spent on recreation. After 1965, federal facilities could spend only up to $100,000 per project in matching funds for upgrades. "There had been some stuff constructed since then," says Jensen, "but not enough to keep up with the demand." Another problem, after 1992, was Public Law 102-575, Title 28 Matching Program, or more specifically, the acquiring of a matching partner.

Title 28 money is allocated by Congress for facilities upgrade with the stipulation that it can't be spent by Reclamation without a managing partner. Many times, a managing partner is an agency that provides things Reclamation cannot, such as law enforcement or recreational facilities. While managing partners can be state or federal, a federal managing partner can't receive funds from another federal agency. In those cases, Reclamation may turn management completely over to the Forest Service, for example, after initial construction is funded. If the managing partner is a state, Reclamation may enter into the 50-50 cost share that the public laws allow.

Sometimes however, facilities are in such bad shape that the agency may have problems finding managing partners. So it can't spend the money even when it was available. This has occasionally left Reclamation unable to satisfactorily manage some of it's own facilities.

With changes that came from the amendment of Public Law 89-72 by Public Law 102-575, Reclamation could provide more funds, and require much more money from partners for upgrades. The increased authorizations reflected the recognition of increased costs. "It's basically a program where about one million dollars a year from each photo: picnic pavilion at Deer Creek Reservoiragency becomes available to go to one facility and the goal of about 4 to 6 million dollars [over a two or three years period], to bring it up to current standards," says Clyde Thomas, a Civil Engineer in the Provo Office who has worked extensively on the Deer Creek and other such recreation facility upgrades.

Another aspect of such joint management is the type of work each entity contributes. "When Reclamation manages," says Jensen, "we provide initial and minimum, basic facilities." That means the agency builds roads, restrooms and waste receptacles. But Jensen says when a managing partner comes in, "they can provide water and sewage hookups, pavilions and other amenities that better meet popular recreational demands." Together, both agencies build a functional and enjoyable facility.

Currently, partnering with Utah State Parks, Reclamation is upgrading Willard Bay Recreational Area. The partnership has already completed work on Rockport and Deer Creek, and has plans to improve East Canyon Reservoir's recreational facilities as well. There are a lot more facilities to go, and the demand is high, but the process is a methodical one, says Thomas. "After [East Canyon], they'll have to go back to management and decide if they want to continue the program and which lake facilities they want to continue it at," he says.

But the momentum seems to be on continuing, at least if demographic projections continue as they have. "All of the facilities we've chosen are major Wasatch Front and Back lake areas that are heavily used within close proximity to the major population in Utah," says Dave Morrow, Deputy Director of Utah State Parks. "The population in the state of Utah is estimated to increase by a million and a half people by 2020," he says. "[And] every year for the last ten years, boat sales have increased steadily. So I don't see anything but a growing trend in demand especially for water recreation, in the State of Utah. I think the cooperation between the Bureau and the State of Utah is critical."

Clyde Thomas agrees. "I think it's in the best interest of Utah State Parks and Reclamation to be involved in managing recreation facilities for the citizens of Utah." "So it's important for all sides, and it's important economically that we work together to build good facilities that don't require a lot of maintenance." "But also," he says, "it's important to construct facilities the public can enjoy since the public speaks to their congressional people, who speak to us. We're responsible to the public to provide what they want."

So all of the effort, legislating, surveys and planning comes down to the people and what they think, people like Lamont Cox, who was on the beach at Deer Creek one day last week. "I think [the Government] does an OK job. You're never going to please all of the people all of the time," he says. "I think they come in and try to make things nicer. So, when they come in and spend some money, I think they do a pretty good job." Of course, Sadie and her sister probably could've weighed in too, but they were a little busy.


Last updated: January 22, 2007