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Southern Utah News Front Page: May 23, 2019

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East Zion Initiative - Part II Applecross East Zion Visitor Center

By Dixie Brunner

Editor’s note-The following is the second part in a series on the East Zion Initiative. We first looked at how the concept of the multi-project plan was created, and how the different partners became involved.

This week’s focus will be on the signature project, which is the beautiful East Zion Visitor/Welcome Center Applecross) that will be built at the intersection of Highway 9 and North Fork Road. The 7000 square foot visitor center will eventually have a bus shuttle that will take you into the park, and an on-scene greenhouse and orchard to offer a farm to table food experience at the restaurant.

Part three will feature the large new resort to be built at the East Zion entrance.

One word that best describes the exciting new East Zion Initiative Project would be “partnership!” The development plan for the community partnership has a number of key partners: Kane County, private landowners, Zion National Park, Zion National Park Forever Project, Kanab BLM Field Office, Utah Department of Transportation, Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Department and the Utah Office of Tourism.

There are many reasons why the partners wanted a Visitor/Welcome Center on the east side of Zion National Park. Among them were improving Kane County’s economy through increased tourism, alleviating Zion National Park west side overcrowding by providing visitors with a different focus on the east side hiking areas, as well as better visitor interpretation and orientation.

“This project is great,” said Zion National Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh. “It’s a great collaborative opportunity with Kane County, private land owners, the parks, BLM, UDOT and others. None of us could do this alone. We have a lot of synergy together.”

“We’re not trying to take away visitors from the west side,” explained Kane County Commissioner Brent Chamberlain, who sits on the East Zion Initiative board. “We see it as complimenting the Zion visitor experience by providing east side trails and options.”

One guiding principle for the Applecross Visitor Center is authenticity, which will reside within the visitor experience. The partners are also striving the visitor center’s design be reverent of the awe-inspiring nearby landscape, as well as cultural heritage. This will be done by looking back at the story of the pioneers, and cultivating future discourse around heritage and ecological conservation for future generations.

They hope to implement a symbiotic approach to site resources and architecture that support closed loop systems of food, water, energy and other elements that are key to a thriving ecosystem.

The two final principles they hope to incorporate into the Applecross Visitor Center are cooperation and integrity. They want to leverage the unique strengths of the partnerships to drive creativity and innovation. Also, they want to consider each design element within the context of the whole, taking a comprehensive approach to sustainability that equally values the social, economic and environmental impacts of the project.

All lofty goals, but the board and partners are dedicated and passionate to making the Applecross Visitor Center design exciting, original and a world-class asset.

The East Zion Visitor Center will be a $10 million, 7,000 square foot building. It will be a place where east side visitors can get information and orientation for the park in general, as well as hikes inside the park and outside on public lands. They will be able to get park and hiking permits at the visitor center. Kane County will also have a presence there to offer information on other destinations.

Applecross will feature a museum and exhibits, theater and education, and food and restrooms. In addition, Zion National Park Forever Project (see accompanying feature story) will operate a retail area with proceeds going to park projects.

“We’ll be operating the park store,” said Zion Forever Project Director Mark Preiss. (Some proceeds of their product sales go to help fund park projects, etc.) “We’re going to help staff the visitor center as well. We think it will provide guests with a very unique visitor experience.”

New hiking trails are being developed both inside the park and outside. Approximately 50 miles of trails will be featured on the east side.

Among features of the Applecross Visitor Center grounds will be hiking trails, picnic tables, ponds, greenhouses and many trees. In fact, instead of a big asphalt parking lot, parking will be interspersed with trees.

A public transit system is also being studied to be located there to relieve traffic into the park, as well as other visitor destinations.

Thoughtful study and planning by the partners have gone into the Applecross Visitor Center. Many elements will come together to enhance the visitor experience.

“I think the East Side Visitor Center will offer a more diverse visitor experience,” concluded Superintendent Bradybaugh. “Also important are the new trail opportunities.”

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