Church reviews plans for massacre site

Published: Sunday, May 31 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

ST. GEORGE — Using the visit of Mountain Meadows Massacre descendants to Utah for the 150th anniversary of the reburial of victims' remains, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reviewed its application for National Historic Landmark consideration as well as a master plan for expansion and development of site property.

Elder Marlin K. Jensen, a member of the LDS Church's Quorums of the Seventy and church historian, and Richard E. Turley Jr., assistant historian, provided the updates at the Mountain Meadows Association's annual meetings Saturday night in St. George.

"In a sense, we hold this property in trust for your benefit," Elder Jensen said.

The master plan's purpose is four-fold, he said — to honor the memory of the dead, to preserve and protect the sites, to provide reasonable public access and to properly interpret the events.

The church's property involvement started 40 years ago when it purchased the 2.5 acres where the main monument sits — a location referred to as "the siege site" — later followed by acquiring another 40-acres buffer.

Elder Jensen highlighted recent additions — 75 acres a couple of years ago, a 600-acre parcel at one time considered for a 200-home development and first right of refusal for another 95 neighboring acres.

Additionally, the church has acquired another 16-acre section north of the attacks and burial. Development plans include a parking lot, fences and interpretative plaques — but most of the property left as is to provide "an area of contemplation," he said.

Nothing will be done, he added, without input from and agreement with the descendants' three associations.

Elder Jensen noted the church is working with property owners on acquiring an additional north parcel, believed to be a second upper gravesite. Descendants took a first-ever walk on that ground earlier Saturday, which Mountain Meadows Association president Terry Fancher described as memorable and moving.

Turley reported the landmark application passed a briefing process and was approved for the nomination process, with consultants used to bolster the application.

That application was completed this week and is en route to the federal government, with Turley saying he's positive and optimistic for its prospects.

E-MAIL: taylor@desnews.com

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