The remains of a water park, piles of excavated dirt, deteriorated recreational facilities and hundreds of feet of unpaved parking lots and road are not the images normally associated with a State Park. And until recently, that's what the Willard Bay State Park Facilities looked like. But thanks to a cooperative agreement between the State and the Federal government, that's all changing.
Willard Reservoir, the site of Willard Bay State Park is located about 12 milesnorth of Ogden UT along Interstate 15. The reservoir was completed in 1964 for irrigation, and to supply municipal and industrial water, as part of the Bureau of Reclamation's Weber Basin Project. Most of the facilities of the park have been in place since the mid 1970's and managed by Utah Parks and Recreation.
Popular Recreation Area
The park facilities have been heavily used since then. Annual visitation of up to 300,000 people puts great strain on a site that was originally designed for much lighter use. Nearly one-quarter of all users are from Davis County, with the remainder being Salt Lake, Weber and Box Elder counties, as well as some out-of-state visitors. Surveys conducted by the State Parks show visitors are most concerned about safety and security, cleanliness and the responsible use of personal water craft at Willard Bay. Many users of the facility intend to come to Willard Bay when they set out for a recreational area. For them, their next choice would be Pineview Reservoir and then, Bear Lake. And although most people are at the facility for less than 24 hours, some enjoy at least one overnight stay.
What is the Process?
Whenever there is a federal action, the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA is activated. It was passed so federal agencies would have a more environmentally conscious view when they are making major decisions, such as when producing a Resource Management Plan (RMP). In the case of Willard Bay, the State and the Federal governments wanted to upgrade the recreational facilities as part of an RMP. An inter-agency team was brought together by Reclamation and Bear West consulting to work on addressing environmental, social, recreational and other factors affecting the park in accordance with NEPA. Reclamation, as the decision making agency, went through the NEPA process by producing an Environmental Assessment (EA) which considered public comment and inter-agency team collaboration. "We appreciated all of those comments," says Reclamation Rotation Engineer Betsy Hales. "We're a federal agency. We want to work with the people."
Two areas make up Willard Bay State Park. The largest is the North Recreational Area, which is near the town of Willard UT. The first phase of construction will begin there this month to rehabilitate Eagle Beach and build the new "Cottonwood" campground. The Eagle Beach renovation will include flush restrooms, a concession building, improvements to an existing 100 person group shelter, parking, a larger sand beach, turf and shelters.
The upgrades at the new 39 unit "Cottonwood" site will include flush restrooms, showers, tables, shelters, asphalt roads and camp site utilities including water, sewer and electricity. The other park area, the South Recreational Area, has already received a new main culinary water line. Other improvements for that area include a flush restroom, a new hydrant water system and an expanded parking area. Rehabilitation work will continue in these and other areas for the next 2 or 3 years.
Once the new Cottonwood Campground is completed, Willow campground will close for a rehabilitation which will include 40 camp sites, flush restrooms, a water system, showers, campsite tables and shelters. Wiper Cove and Pelican Beach Day Use Areas will also get new tables, restrooms and shelters. Pelican Beach will see a new group use campground. At the marina, the boat ramp will be widened and the marina parking lot will be enlarged and upgraded. Breakwater rock will be repaired, fueling and sanitary stations installed, and new boat slips, with utility hookups, will be added.
The Public Is Curious
"In general, people were pretty happy with the improvements made at Rockport and Deer Creek", says Bureau of Reclamation Civil Engineer, Clyde Thomas. "Although there's not any construction yet [at Willard Bay], they're curious." Among the goals of the proposed work, according to the RMP which guides development of the park, are to provide year-round recreational opportunities, renovate visitor facilities and build quality recreation without adversely impacting the other resources of the project. The RMP tries to insure that no facilities are installed at the expense of other park resources.
More Than Meets The Eye
The plan to implement the improvements to Willard Bay State Park involves five area with only one focusing on obvious improvements. Besides recreational and visual resources, the park will undergo changes in it's operational partnerships, water resources, natural/cultural and paleontological resources, and land management resources. From protecting archeological resources to noxious weed eradication to implementing a public education program, the effort at Willard Bay is extensive and completely with the public in mind.
"It's time for renovation", says Reclamation Planner Jim Jensen. "The facilities are worn out." But Jensen says part of the reason the renovations happened at all was the high level of cooperation between the State of Utah and Reclamation. "Many agencies cooperated under NEPA to develop the RMP and make the changes to the park", he says. "Our bottom line is to give the public what it wants, which is a great facility."