Utah Department of Natural Resources
Fred Hayes, Utah's parks and recreation director, died Friday, March 2, 2018, at his home in Heber City, the Utah Department of Natural Resources said late Friday. He was 58.

SALT LAKE CITY — The man who embodied the success of Utah's 44 state parks will have one named in his honor after a touching tribute in the state Legislature to Fred Hayes, who died suddenly last Friday.

HCR21, by Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, passed the House 65-0 Wednesday and later passed the Senate 27-0.

Hayes, 58, began his career with the parks division at Starvation State Park in 1982, working as a seasonal ranger aide at the northeastern Utah park.

By 2012, he was appointed director of the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation and was tasked with managing the state parks at a time when its budget was slashed by 59 percent. The division was given the charge by lawmakers to become more self-sufficient and less reliant on general fund revenues.

It was a time across the country when multiple states were faced with the prospect of shuttering state parks. Scrutiny in Utah also fell to greatly subsidized state-run golf courses that are part of the state's park system and cultural heritage museums that typically run in the red.

Hayes fought ardently on behalf of all state parks and implemented a new business model to make them more profitable, his colleagues say.

"Fred went about his job with enthusiasm, excitement and with passion," said Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, who sits on the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Committee.

"This is a life that has really impacted us deeply."

Lawmakers spoke of how even though Hayes died suddenly, his legacy will live on with the success of the state park system.

"Fred vowed to keep every park open with his dying breath," Perry said. "You can't drive past a state park without thinking of Fred Hayes."

Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, was working with Hayes on a measure for a trail extension at Hole-In-the-Rock State Park, talked with him last week on the bill and planned to discuss it again on Monday.

"Personally I feel a real loss with him being gone," Dayton said.

Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, who carried the resolution in the Senate, said he worked with Hayes on access issues at Snow Canyon State Park a decade ago.

"Fred Hayes was a guy you felt like you had known forever," he said.

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Hayes was described as an affable and genuine state employee who often did his job with a twinkle in his eye, measuring success by the number and size of smiles on children's faces.

His motto, according to the resolution, was "having more people having more fun in parks more often."

Hayes' funeral will be 11 a.m. Friday at the LDS Stake Center at 150 N. 200 West, Heber City. A viewing will be 6-8 a.m. Thursday and 9-10:30 a.m. Friday at the stake center.

He is survived by his wife, Serena, and five children.

"I want to personally thank Fred Hayes' family for sharing him with us," Ipson said.