Davis County looks at managing Jordan River OHV Park

Aug 23 2011 - 6:40pm

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(NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner) Spencer Kirk comes out of a turn at the Jordan River OHV Park Tuesday, August 23, 2011 in Woods Cross.
(NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner) Spencer Kirk comes out of a turn at the Jordan River OHV Park Tuesday, August 23, 2011 in Woods Cross.

FARMINGTON -- The Jordan River Off-Highway Vehicle Park is roughly 170 acres of dirt bike heaven.

The question is, does Davis County want the responsibility of managing a park that captures on average $100,000 a year in revenue but costs $295,000 annually to operate?

State Parks Northern Region Manager Jeff Rasmussen and the Davis County Budget Committee met Monday in an informational meeting to begin exploring that question.

"It is not making money as is. Are there parameters? Is there wiggle room (in enhancing the park)?" Davis County Commissioner Louenda Downs asked Rasmussen about the park, which has a Salt Lake County address of 2800 N. Rose Park Lane.

Rasmussen told the budget committee he believes the county will have flexibility in managing the park on the condition it maintains its public recreation use. The park was originally purchased by the state in 1989 with land and water conservation funds.

With the Utah Division of State Parks having been hit by $3 million in budget cuts, state legislators at the 2011 session asked the division to look at those parks that could possibly be turned over to counties or cities to alleviate some of the burden on the state budget.

"This is a tough subject to talk about, but unfortunately it is a reality," Rasmussen said of having to turn the management of some parks over to other entities.

About half of the Jordan River OHV Park, which straddles the Salt Lake County-Davis County line, has already been transferred over to Salt Lake County to be developed as part of a soccer complex, said Fred Hayes, state parks deputy director of operations.

That leaves about 150 to 180 acres of park land on the Davis side currently being used by motorcycle riders, officials said.

"It is primarily geared toward motorcycles. We just give folks in the local area a place to play on their vehicles without them having to trailer a long way," Hayes said.

Numerous motorcyclists use the park, Hayes said, with each rider paying $10 per park visit or a $75 fee for a riding season that generally runs from early spring to the first of November, Hayes said.

"We think the off-highway vehicle park provides a valuable resource, and (the state would) hate to see (the use of the park) change," he said. "On any given weekend, we may have 200 to 300 riders."

Hayes said the park provides a place where the public can ride motorcycles without causing substantial damage to natural resources.

The Jordan River OHV Park was established in 1973 and later purchased by the state after the flood waters of 1983 receded, officials said.

Discussions are taking place between the state and other counties and cities regarding those entities' interest in managing a park within their jurisdictions, state park officials said. In most cases, counties and cities have been reluctant to show an interest in taking on such a venture, Rasmussen said.

Other questions asked by county officials Monday were which entity captures the tax revenues from the land, the number of employees managing the park, and the liability involved in managing such a park.

Regarding liability, whatever the state has been paying in insurance costs is included in the $295,000 operation cost, Rasmussen said. Two deaths have occurred at the park in recent memory: one resulting from a crash, the other a heart attack.

One full-time and four part-time seasonal workers are currently employed at the park. Their salaries are included in the park operation cost, Rasmussen said.

The tax revenue issue is one the county will have to take up with the state tax commission, Davis County Chief Deputy Clerk Terry Tremea said.

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