New visitors center celebrates unique beauty of Great Salt Lake
In addition to the gift shop that offers eclectic but appropriate souvenirs such as Utah Dead Sea Salts and snowflake ornaments crafted out of Great Salt Lake salt, the state park also added multiple overnight camping spots with full hook-ups available for $20 a night. There are kayak tours available, and a private concessionaire has plans to start a catered sunset cruise.
Hayes said the ultimate goal is to transform the park, and the lake's attractions, into a spectacular visitor experience that will help generate revenue for the division and build on Utah's diverse geologic attractions.
In the 2011-12 fiscal year, the division saw its funding slashed 59 percent on the heels of a scathing audit that recommended some parks for closure or possible privatization. Since then, the parks department has had to consolidate some operations and reduce its staffing to improve its bottom line.
With the threat of some parks targeted for closure and more cuts looming, Hayes' boss, state natural resources director Mike Styler, implored lawmakers to give his agency greater latitude to run the state's 43 parks more like a business. The new visitors center, Hayes said, is another step along that path.
"This will become a draw to get people off the freeway to come take a look, to stay and enjoy," Hayes said, adding that the division will put in an entry station to collect fees and install showers for people who want to swim.
"We will make this more of a business enterprise and give people more reasons to visit."
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