NewsLocal News


Construction on Utahraptor State Park is getting under way

Posted at 4:03 PM, Sep 25, 2023

MOAB, Utah — A highly anticipated new state park is finally getting off the ground.

On Monday, construction crews broke ground for the new Utahraptor State Park, located about 15 miles north of Moab.

"We’re so excited to have dirt moving," said Jeff Rasmussen, the director of the Utah Division of State Parks.

The park is in an area rich in archaeological and paleontological artifacts. The famed Utahraptor (what the velociraptor in the "Jurassic Park" and "Jurassic World" movies was based on) was found here. So have a number of other dinosaur discoveries.

"This is a gold mine," said Utah State Paleontologist Jim Kirkland, motioning to a quarry rich with fossils. "That site goes for maybe half a kilometer."

There are also significant cultural and historical artifacts here. The park is the site of a Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps camp as well as a Japanese internment camp in World War II.

"This is such a beautiful site and the resources that are here are just unbelievable," said Grand County Commissioner Trish Hedin.

The area also boasts miles of trails for recreation. But right now, it's being loved a little too much. Grand County and state authorities have struggled with dispersed campsites, trash and other problems.

"This site where Utahraptor is being built is kind of known as the last no man’s land. The place to come out for dispersed camping," said Rasmussen. "Unfortunately, there hasn’t been the facilities to be able to accommodate that tremendous use coming in with restrooms, with trash removal."

FOX 13 News reported on plans for Utahraptor State Park in 2021, after the Utah State Legislature approved spending millions to create it. At the time, the park was supposed to be finished by 2022. But it struggled to get going because of difficulties locating a sufficient water resource for the park's infrastructure and the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We had a real tough time getting a well that would produce enough water, quantity of water to facilitate the infrastructure for the park," said Josh Hansen, the park's manager, adding: "Then COVID hit and building costs tripled everything tripped so we had to break it up into two, three phases."

When the first phase is finally completed — hopefully by next year — Utahraptor State Park is designed to also help take some pressure off of nearby Arches and Canyonlands national parks. When those are too busy (and Arches has had days when its gates close because it's at capacity), people can also be directed to check out Utahraptor and try trails and the visitors center with cultural exhibits and a full-sized replica of the namesake dinosaur.

The park is welcomed by Moab and Grand County leaders.

"I think all tourist communities throughout the state have probably seen a little downturn specifically after the COVID bump," Commissioner Hedin said. "So you know, our community is probably is looking for a little pulse."