Ground broken for Utahraptor State Park near Moab
Sep 26, 2023, 6:19 PM
MOAB — There are certain days Brookes Britt looks forward to.
Monday was one of them.
“If you look right here, you can see where a dinosaur stepped into the mud and created a depression,” he said to a small group of people he was guiding.
Britt is a paleontologist and the department chair for BYU’s geological sciences.
The mounds of rocks he was showing to his group are located in the Dalton Wells area just north of Moab.
It’s an area full of dinosaur bones and tracks.
Britt has spent his life studying this area.
“I love it. I love digging dinosaurs,” he said with a smile.
Now, his passion in this spot will be a little more protected.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the brand new Utahraptor State Park, which includes the quarry where a majority of the dinosaur bones are buried.
It was designated as a Utah State Park in May of 2021, but COVID and other delays have pushed back development.
“Thanks for coming out,” Josh Hansen told a crowd gathered in front of some shovels. “I have held my breath waiting for construction to start.”
Hansen is Utahraptor State Park’s manager and the biggest delay was digging a well deep enough to find water.
“Water is a big deal when you have a park that needs a visitors center, toilets, flushing toilets, showers, stuff like that. You have to have water or they don’t work,” he said.
The park would give tourists another place to visit in the Moab area, where outdoor recreation continues to increase.
Many people have camped in the Dalton Wells area before, for free, but with more people discovering the area, Utah State Parks director Jess Rasmussen says a lot more garbage, fire pits, and human waste started to build up as well.
“There were very, very limited facilities with restrooms and trash removal and we’re going to be able to provide that now to give people who come here a better, cleaner, more satisfying experience,” said Rasmussen.
The park will also include a memorial for the Japanese Americans who were detained here at an internment camp during World War II.
“I think it’s important we remember that and we preserve it for future generations because it is a part of our history, even if it’s a dark part,” said Grand County Commissioner Bill Windfield.
Utahraptor State Park is officially open, but there are currently no facilities, except for a few porta-potties on site.
A visitor center, developed campgrounds, flush toilets, showers, and other improvements are expected to be built and ready about a year from now.
For Britt, he’s just happy his favorite playground will be more protected.
“Utah is the best place to study geology in the world, I think,” he said. “Really. It is a special place.”