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Southern Utah News Front Page: November 25, 2020
East Zion Visitor Center and shuttle service
Charging stations like these were installed in the parking lot of the Kanab Center. They will be used by the new Kane County electric shuttle buses/vans.
By Dixie Brunner
The proposed East Zion Visitor Center to be built not far from the east entrance would be a tourist access center for the east side of Zion National Park. Trails will be developed on the east side, as well as to access hikes into the park.
In an endeavor of partnerships, both public and private, the access should not only relieve some of the overcrowding and congestion on the roads and hiking trails in the park, but bring tourists to the east side of the park.
Kane County Commissioner Brent Chamberlain has been the point man on bringing the various entities together on the $10 million, 7,000 square foot building. He said many people at the state level of tourism, as well as Zion National Park, are excited about the project.
“State Tourism Director Vicky Vereala said it’s one of most exciting projects to be discussed in the state,” said Chamberlain. “The thing that is most exciting is the shuttle.”
“What we hope to be created is that the Commission will adopt a resolution to create a Regional Transportation Authority,” added Chamberlain.
In a partnership with Kanab City, the first phase will include an electric shuttle van or small bus that will travel from Kanab to the visitor center in the park, with at least one stop along the route at the planned East Zion Visitor Center. (There are already charging stations at the Kanab Center.)
“Then after 2021, we’ll have a pretty good idea of how many shuttles will be needed,” said Chamberlain.
Feasibility for this phase of the project is funded in part with a pass through grant with Utah Clean Cities. Most of the required match for the grant will be through services provided by Utah Clean Cities, and grants from other Utah state agencies. Kane County will be required to pay half the van’s purchase price to test the viability of using electric shuttles. The van that will be purchased will be owned by Kane County and may be used for other county uses when not being driven in and out of the park for testing purposes.
If the tests prove the validity of an electric shuttle van service, from Kanab to the visitor center and back, they’ll need to determine the number of vans and their size and configuration. And efforts will then be sought for funding to purchase the vans, through federal, state and private entities.
If the phase one Regional Transportation system is successful, phase two will be explored, which includes the possibility of connecting the shuttles from Kane County to buses traveling to Zion from St. George, allowing visitors to travel from St. George to the park and on to the East side of Zion, and then to Kanab.
“We want to eventually create a shuttle system that serves southwestern Utah,” said Chamberlain, “including Washington, Iron, Kane and Garfield counties.”
The hope is to by phase three of the shuttle project, a connection between the three national parks and the communities along these routes will be achieved. The benefits to the communities served by this system could be tremendous.
A public hearing will be scheduled within the next four to six weeks to get public input and to further explain the project. The public should know that there are no plans to increase taxes, either property or sales, to pay for this Regional Transportation system.
Chamberlain concluded that it is expected that adjacent counties and cities will also join with the regional shuttle, making traveling between southwestern region communities much easier.