The man whose 25-year efforts helped create Great Basin National Park in Nevada has set his sights on turning part of eastern Utah into a national park because of its buried dinosaur treasure.
Robert S. Waite, a geology professor at Brigham Young University, said Thursday the number of tourists visiting Dinosaur National Monument would more than double if it became the state's sixth national park. The extra tourists would boost Eastern Utah's slumping economy.Waite's idea is supported by Craig Oliver, a Democratic candidate for Utah's 3rd Congressional District seat. Oliver said he will make the proposed park a priority in his campaign.
"This would make Utah the nation's national park state," Oliver said.
But Waite has yet to get backing from Utah's current congressional delegation or from leaders in Colorado, which would share part of the park. He has no idea what his proposal would cost the federal government.
Still, despite his long struggles to get his way on Nevada's Great Basin, Waite believes a dinosaur park can be created in two years.
"I don't think it would take more than a year or two if the Colorado and Utah delegations get together and agree this is important for the area," Waite said.
The federal government already owns the approximately 200,000 acres that would encompass the park. The area already is a national monument, meaning it would take little effort for Congress to turn the monument into the country's 50th national park, he said.
Waite hopes to sell Congress on the idea by pointing out there are no national parks for dinosaurs anywhere in the world.
"People realize the dinosaurs are kind of a national treasure," he said. "This would be a world classic."
Designating the area a national park would provide more money for trails and other facilities, but the park likely would remain much as it is. The designation alone, however, would attract more people, he said.
Both men believe the extra visitors would boost eastern Utah's flat economy.
"This is a very depressed area now with the slump in oil," Waite said. "I believe if you conducted a poll you would see that 85 percent of the people in Utah want national-park status for that area."
Because dinosaurs are popular, especially with children, the new park would quickly become one of the most popular in the country, he said.
Waite said Great Basin National Park has helped the economy in Ely, Nev.