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Kanab hosts hundreds at the Outdoor Recreation Summit

The event''s welcome dinner and social at Cave Lakes Canyon. Photo by Ty Gant.

Last Thursday, October 28, Kanab played host to an impressive crowd of state officials, industry experts, and outdoor recreation enthusiasts at a special summit put on by the state Office of Outdoor Recreation (OOR). The goal of the summit was twofold: first to showcase the incredible beauty and potential of southern Utah, and second to bring anyone interested in investing in and exploring that potential together.

India Nielsen Barfuss, the program manager for the Office of Outdoor Recreation, and one of the event’s key organizers, put it this way, “Land managers, non-profits, universities … anyone who touches the outdoors, really; summits like this are a place of connection. The gist is to combat issues that face outdoor recreation. Anyone one who organizes outdoor recreation can show up and collaborate.”

According to Barfuss, the event had almost four hundred attendees over its two-day run, raising upwards of thousands of dollars both to cover the event’s cost and to contribute to the operations of the OOR. Attendees came from all over the state of Utah and beyond - ranging from local business owners to international natural resource conservation representatives.

Guests who showed up on Wednesday were able to explore the very outdoors they were looking to invest their time and effort in, with tours to Peekaboo slots, Belly of the Dragon and the Coral Pinks. The event itself began in earnest with a dinner and social on Wednesday, starting off with ... what else? ... a little bit of cowboy poetry from Hal Hamblin to welcome everyone to Kanab.

After that, summit attendees had the opportunity to do dark sky stargazing in Zion, or check out PBS’ special on Zion National Park shown at Moqui Cave. On Thursday, things started early with breakfast at the Parry Lodge, then on to business. Keynote speakers, breakout sessions, networking and other very official sounding events went on at the Kanab Center; all fancy ways of saying that people who know things and have resources got together to share the things they know and the resources they have.

The event hosted only about half of its regular attendees though. Due to the last few years of changing circumstances, the summit was split down the middle, hosting two events in Logan and Kanab respectively, rather than one huge event. It’s in the nature of a social and networking event like this to try to bring as many people together as possible, but that’s not the healthiest or most practical idea these days, so the event’s organizers were happy with a few smaller events. As one organizer put it, “I almost like the smaller numbers - yeah, that means less people and resources to solve problems altogether, but it’s a more intimate experience with the area.”

Despite attendance being a little smaller by necessity, the event’s organizers still called it “an amazing turnout, with huge potential” as the event closed on Thursday. It is likely the summit will be back in the southern Utah area before long, and citizens are encouraged to check out the Office of Outdoor Recreation’s website, as well as its sister website at the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity for further information on events like this one.

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