State budget problems put a halt to horse-drawn sleigh rides to see wintering elk at the Hardware Ranch two years ago, but a private company is resuming the service the day after Christmas, officials say.

Bruce Anderson, northern regional spokesman for the Division of Wildlife Resources, said a contract has yet to be signed but that Carriage Horse Livery Ltd. of Salt Lake City plans to become the concessionaire.The rides at the state-owned ranch had been free but now likely will cost $3.50 for adults and $2 for children, with no charge for "lap-riders," he said.

In addition to the sleigh rides, Carriage Horse Livery will offer a small food service at the ranch in northern Utah's Blacksmith Fork Canyon.

Mary Ann Scott, who operates the business with her husband, Wayne, said the rides will be offered daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through March 1.

She said if there is not enough snow for sleighs, hay-filled wagons will transport visitors through the meadow to see the elk.

"We're committed to making this successful, and we hope to expand services to include special dinner packages and group events," she said.

Rep. Evan Olsen, R-Young Ward, chairman of the Legislature's Natural Resources Appropriations Committee, said he is pleased the rides will be resumed because they've been a popular winter activity for many years.

However, Olsen said he is concerned that after paying nothing for so long, prospective visitors may feel the fees are "a little excessive."

He said he also hopes a rate can be worked out for student field trips.

Olsen said the rides used to be funded as a $40,000 line item in the state budget each year, "but it just got to be beyond our revenues."