Destination development projects in Washington County continue to grow

Written by Stephanie DeGraw

Destination development projects in Washington County are chugging full steam ahead. According to the Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office, more than $25 million tourism-generated funds have been distributed throughout county projects over the last 10 years. 

The tourism board released current updates on projects in development in 2022 the week of June 20-26. The list includes upkeep on existing venues and infrastructure and new assets. The Utah legislature requires counties statewide to spend at least 47% establishing and promoting tourism. Greater Zion spends 53% on tourism-related projects and infrastructure, Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Director Kevin Lewis said.

He also said that the mission of Greater Zion is to use the funds generated from tourism to create a superior experience for locals, not just visitors. In addition to developing infrastructure, trails and facilities, they address the area’s future needs. The group works closely with community leaders, land managers and residents to do so.

“As the city grows, the amenities grow, and there’s a little bit of a give and take there,” Lewis said. “If you look at major metropolitans, as they grow, they start building and private investment goes with that. It’s not all public investment, and I think that’s what you’ll see happen here. As we continue to grow out.”

Money from temporary visitor lodging is known as transient room tax and funds the projects. Lewis explained a city or group in Washington county might seek support from Great Zion’s tourism board. They apply through the board, which recommends specific proposals to the County Commission. 

“The commission ultimately authorizes the use of the funds, which will take the information we have in the application process,” he said.

Local projects have benefited from tourism dollars, including:

  • The Zion Corridor Trail 
  • State Route 18 Paved Path
  • St. George Little Valley Turf Improvements
  • St. George Little Valley Pickleball Improvements
  • Spring Hollow and Grass Mountain Biking Project
  • Santa Clara Canyon View Park/BMX Track
  • Sand Mountain OHV Staging Area (Waddy’s Parking Corral)
  • Hurricane Trail System (600 N. Trail)
  • Hurricane Equestrian Park
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The Zion Corridor Trail is a paved project that connects La Verkin to Springdale to Zion National Park along state Route 9. It will feature about 18 miles, including an underpass, bridges and boardwalks. The goal is to narrow the gaps and improve the active transportation options in the Zion Corridor, Leslie Fonger, destination development manager, Greater Zion, said

The estimated costs are $13.5 million, of which $10.8 million will come from the Utah Department of Transportation and $2.7 million from Washington County. The groups involved include the Zion Regional Collaborative, Virgin, Rockville, Springdale, La Verkin and Washington County. Fonger said community input is being sought. The project will be finished in 2026.

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State Route 18 is receiving a face-lift and combines road widening projects with a paved path. The trail will connect Veyo to Central, running along the east side of state Route 18. 

“Bicyclists will have a much safer route,” Fonger said.

Lewis added that the increased traffic on that highway and many events happening in that area led to this project’s approval.

“The marathon is one of the events where people are up there on state Route 18, running that highway all the time and preparing for the marathon,” Lewis said. “Like two months before, if you’ve ever been up there, you’ll see people every morning. In that section, it’s a little more remote, but they want to run the course. And so, one of the things in the design was keeping it road grade, so that they can train at the same grade, but they won’t actually be on the road.”

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St. George Little Valley Turf Improvements focus on replacing most of the natural grass with artificial turf on soccer fields. Fonger said it reduces water usage and lets the natural grass rest. It will also provide off-season use for tournaments and lower maintenance costs. 

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St. George Little Valley Pickleball Improvements expand the complex with an additional 10 courts and add a championship court with stadium seating. Besides attracting regional and national tournaments year-round, the local usage of the courts is very high, she said. The project will cost approximately $2 million and is expected to be completed in summer 2023.


Spring Hollow and Grass Valley Mountain Biking Project showcase new mountain bike trails in the Dixie National Forest to be built in phases over the next few years. Fonger said it includes 44 miles of new pathways in the Spring Hollow area and 11 miles of new trail in the Pine Valley area. 

There will also be new trailheads, an event staging area and a dispersed camping area. Added will be about 20 miles of trail in Spring Hollow and a trailhead and the staging and dispersed camping areas.

Fonger said the goal is to provide new mountain biking elements not currently available in Washington County. It also is designed to accommodate competition races, downhill and jump lines. Another plus, she said, is providing trails at a higher elevation the public can use during the summer heat.

Funding is estimated at $508,464 for Phase 1 and $288,204 for Phase 2. Washington County tourism funds came to $800,000 for these costs. The Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation has provided grants worth $560,000. The rest of the funding is provided by the Dixie National Forest and donations from the Southern Utah Trail Alliance, Trails Utah and Vacation Races. Fonger said Phase 1 is underway and should be finished by 2022. Phase 2  will begin later this year and is expected to be completed by year’s end.

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Santa Clara Canyon View Park/BMX Track focuses on the Canyon View Park. It includes a BMX track, softball fields and other amenities. New features include a trail, parking and restroom improvements in three phases. The thrust of modifications will increase the ability to host larger BMX, softball and youth baseball events through the upgrades. Expenses are around $800,000 with Washington County tourism monies contributing $260,000. The completion is expected for later in 2022, Fonger said.

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Hurricane Trails System (600 N. Trail) is a paved trail that will connect Grandpa’s Pond Park to 200 East in Hurricane. For 5 miles, it will partially follow 600 North and is regarded as a regionally significant trail project, Fonger said. This fulfills Hurricane City’s Active Transportation Plan and improves safety on 600 North while connecting with the regional trail system. Funding is estimated at $2 million, with costs shared by the city and Washington County tourism funds. 

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Hurricane Equestrian Park is on 40 acres southeast of the airport and will double the capacity of the American Legion Rodeo Arena presently used. The new venue will include rodeo grounds with 2,000 seats, a restroom building, concession stand, pavilion, parking areas, announcer’s booth, walking trails and picnic areas.

The new venue will double the size of the American Legion Rodeo Arena currently in use.

“Llike with a lot of these other projects, the demand is outpacing the facilities,” Fonger said.

This will not only benefit Peach Days but also new events and provide family riding space, Fonger added. The funding is provided by Hurricane City and supported by Washington County and other stakeholders. The cost is estimated at $2.4 million. The project also includes nighttime lighting and bleachers, and a playground. This project is projected to be finished in 2022.