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Change coming to Camp Floyd State Park

UTAH COUNTY — There’s no better day at school than one that involves a field trip. Especially when that field trip is a visit to Camp Floyd State Park in Utah County.

“You do not pull that trigger until I give the command to fire,” said Mark Trotter, the parks manager, to a group of elementary students. “Ready, aim, fire.”

Of course, there weren’t any bullets, ballistics, or gunpowder in the old rifles the kids were shooting. But it was part of the hands-on demonstrations for students Camp Floyd has become popular for.

Through the years, Trotter has brought history to life for thousands of kids. Putting on an old 1850’s-era military uniform to speak to them is one of his favorite parts of the job.

“I have always loved the history here,” he said. “If we lose that history, it’s gone. It’s a passion of mine and this story isn’t being told. It’s kind of forgotten. In history books, you get maybe one paragraph if you’re lucky about this place.”

Trotter loves telling stories about the old U.S. Army base. It was opened here in 1858 as a way for then-President James Buchanan to keep track of Brigham Young. Then nearly three years later, the Civil War took those soldiers away.

“When you see the light come on in their eyes and they realize what happened and what took place here, that’s what makes it fun,” said Trotter.

What this particular group of students visiting on Friday didn’t know, though, was that they were his last class. After almost 18 years here, Mark Trotter is leaving.

“Yes, I am retiring. Today is the last day,” he said. “It’s been a neat experience. It really has. But it’s just time.”

Many credit Trotter for saving this historic site, turning what was an almost forgotten heritage park into something worthy of spending a few hours.

“The visitation was very low and revenue was only about $2700 for the year. It just needed a push; is really what it was,” said Trotter.

Pushing is exactly what he did. Trotter and a team of contributors and volunteers gathered artifacts, re-worked the museum to tell visually interesting stories, and even renovated the old cemetery to honor the soldiers who died here.

The field trips for kids, though, may Trotter’s his proudest accomplishment.

“When we first started, we were begging schools to come,” he said with a laugh.

Now, by Christmas each year, they’re booked every school day for the following spring.

“The teachers have found that it fits with their curriculums well with Utah history and with U.S. history. They always tell me it’s their favorite field trip and they keep coming back, so I guess it’s true,” Trotters said.

The field trips will continue at Camp Floyd, just not with Trotter in charge of them. And there are plans to keep enhancing the experience, expanding the museum with soldier barracks and even an old telegraph pole.

Teaching children about the history here is how the stories live on. And Trotter knows they’ll continue to live on even after he is gone.

“It’s the people that made it successful,” he said. “I might have guided it and directed it, but it was all those people that did it who cared and helped out.”

 

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