Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

Utah Awards $500,000 To Non-Profit For Mountain Bike Trails East Of Zion National Park

A photo of a man with a mountain bike overlooking nature.
Courtesy of Zion National Park Forever Project
The East Zion Initiative, which includes 24.5 miles of mountain bike trails, would direct Zion National Park visitors out of the main canyon to the east entrance of the park.

The Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation has awarded a $500,000 grant to the Zion National Park Forever Project, to fund mountain biking trails outside of park. It got the largest share of the $7.6 million the office awarded to projects across the state this year.

The money will go toward 24.5 miles of mountain biking trails in Kane County, just outside the east entrance of the park. There are no trails open to mountain bikers inside Zion.

Pitt Grewe, the director of the state’s Office of Outdoor Recreation, said this will be a benefit to mountain bikers in southern Utah.

“Providing another stop, another opportunity with this increasing popularity in mountain biking just helps for people to stop and improve the economy and spend more dollars in the region,” Grewe said.

Zion National Park was the third most visited national park in the country last year, and is the busiest one in Utah. Visitation numbers have steadily increased over the years. From 2014 to 2019, it jumped over 47%.

This mountain biking trail project is just the first step in a vision for the area called the East Zion Initiative, according to Mark Preiss, the director of the Zion Forever Project, the park's official nonprofit partner. The plans include a new visitor center, electric buses, 40 miles of hiking trails and other amenities.

“Part of the intention behind this is to create a Zion-like experience, but outside the boundaries of the park itself,” Preiss said. “So it takes pressure off of Zion Canyon itself and it extends those opportunities beyond the gates and into adjacent public and private land.”

A study from the Kem C. Gardner Institute earlier this year found the East Zion Initiative would have “significant economic impacts” in the surrounding counties, especially Kane.

The study predicts developing the eastern side of the park would support on average 450 new jobs, each year from 2020 to 2030 and almost $30 million in new GDP in Kane County. In neighboring Washington County, around 94 jobs will be added annually along with $7.3 million in new GDP.

Kane County Commissioner Brent Chamberlain said the mountain bike trail project — and the overall initiative — “substantially benefits” his county.

“The fact that [Zion Forever] started this process on the biking trails is huge,” he said. “It gets things going there and it takes pressure off Kane County, they'll build it with matches that they come up with. This is huge and we really appreciate the collaboration and the work that Zion Forever is doing.”

The grant from the state is for phase two of the project. The total cost of the mountain bike trail project will be just over $2.1 million.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.