The first Utah visitor center in a national forest is in the planning stages on the Powell Ranger District of the Dixie National Forest.

The development is proposed at Red Canyon near U-12, en route to Bryce Canyon National Park from U.S. 89. Red Canyon is a scenic area that gives visitors a miniature preview of the coloring at the national park.Most of the one million visitors annually to Bryce Canyon travel through Red Canyon.

Powell District Chief Ranger Carl Guillette said many travelers stop along the highway in Red Canyon to view and photograph the spectacular scenery. A few turnouts allow travelers to stop their vehicles.

The proposed visitor center would include parking for about 300 on as much as 10 acres of land. Water, sewage disposal, electricity and other improvements would be developed.

Guillette said the visitor center would encourage more people to take advantage of recreation opportunities in Southern Utah. Educational materials would also promote the national forests and its multiple use management concept as well as the national parks.

Participating in planning efforts are more than two dozen undergraduate students who are attending the Utah State University and are majoring in architectural landscape. They are working under a $5,000 grant, assessing each of five alternative sites.

A report on their findings is expected by Feb. 20.

An environmental assessment that will evaluate the proposed development is being prepared by the Powell District, Guillette said. A research area is presently located in the four-mile-long canyon.

The canyon is at the north end of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Its geology is as spectacular as its beauty. The highway extends through two short tunnels, surrounded by red, pink and white cliffs and spires. There is also a variety of vegetation in the canyon.

Guillette said funds are not currently available for the project and that the Forest Service would like to involve individuals and groups in developing and managing facilities.

University students are being directed in the project by Mike Timmons, professor of architectural landscape and design at USU.