Just as sure as the shorebirds are flying south and the brine flies are dying down, Davis County officials are once again lining up their ducks to get state money to rebuild the causeway to Antelope Island.
The Davis County Tourism Advisory Council has set aside $25,000 to lobby the Legislature for $11 million to $14 million to rebuild the causeway, which the council considers its top priority. If the council succeeds in getting funding, the park could be reopened as early as spring 1992."The No. 1 need right now is to get the causeway open so people can get to the facilities," said Rick Mayfield, county planning director.
In 1983, the rising Great Salt Lake destroyed much of the 71/2-mile causeway that leads from Syracuse in north Davis County to the island, rendering the island a quasi-wilderness, a refuge for buffalo, sage grouse, migrating birds and, of course, antelope.
For the past several years, after the lake level receded, Davis tourism and State Parks officials have been trying to reintroduce man to the island, but politics and tight state budgets have always gotten in the way.
Will the next Legislature be more supportive this year?
"We're tremendously optimistic," Mayfield said. "We have greater support now than we've ever had in the past, in both the Senate and the House."
Mayfield said, however, that he is not sure if there will be enough money this year available for the Antelope Island project.
The council's plan will ask for a combination of surplus money and a revenue bond that would be paid back with entrance fees to Antelope Island State Park.
About $10 million is needed to rebuild the causeway, which would be built at 4,209 feet above sea level. The lake currently is sitting at 4,206.
At least $2 million is required to refurbish and restore park facilities - showers, restrooms, campsites and water and electric services.
Mayfield said the Antelope Island proposal makes strong economic sense. "It pays for itself. It can be a real boon to the state."
Approximately 450,000 people visited the island the year before the causeway was damaged. Using that visitation figure, State Parks officials estimate that about $14 million of revenue has been lost each year since.
"We think there can be up to one million visitors a year with little promotion," Mayfield said.
"But aside from the money, it just makes good sense to take one of the most renowned aspects of Utah and developed it for the world."