Morgan's Como Springs may be rebuilt

Aug 14 2011 - 8:49pm

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(Morgan County Historical Society) A sign welcomes visitors to Como Springs .
(Morgan County Historical Society) Como Springs was a popular resort destination.
(Morgan County Historical Society) A sign welcomes visitors to Como Springs .
(Morgan County Historical Society) Como Springs was a popular resort destination.

MORGAN -- A new developer is in town eyeing the well known Como Springs recreation area, and city and county officials couldn't be more excited.

Darren Menlove, who has run the downtown Salt Lake City KOA campground and RV Park for 35 years, is in negotiations with the current owner to purchase Como, located next to the Morgan County Fairgrounds.

Menlove's plans for the area include a swimming pool, hot tub, general store/registration office, RV sites, camping sites, camping cabins, pavilion, wi-fi, and onsite full-time property managers. His plans would include demolishing all remaining structures except the old roller-skating rink.

"We think the property has good potential. We have found the finer a property, the higher the clientele base," Menlove said. "It's a good sales tax generator. You don't have to educate or medicate (campers). They spend their money and leave."

City and county officials agreed.

"It's a great idea since we don't have a hotel in our county," Morgan City Mayor Jim Egbert said. "We have events, and people have no place to stay. It would be advantageous to us, and I am excited about that."

Based on the history of the area, Menlove said he plans to offer swimming/day passes to locals and tourists whether they stay to camp or not.

"It would be a community swimming pool," Menlove said. "It would add to the feasibility of the project."

Menlove considered purchasing the land 13 years ago, and never really forgot about it.

"We are familiar with the property, but still in the very beginning of our feasibility studies," said Menlove, who owns the KOA proprietary rights that include Morgan County. "We are putting our toe in the water."

"As you do your planning, I would be interested in you considering other water amenities," City Councilman Ray Little said. "That type of facility would bring a lot of people here."

In a time where economic development is a buzz word in the county, many officials are pledging to support Menlove.

"We are interested in making Morgan County a destination spot," County Councilman Don Mathews said. "We are willing to do whatever we can to help you."

"Everyone remembers an excellent memory of Como," County Councilwoman Ronda Kippen said. "Bring back that nostalgic feeling and a wonderful atmosphere. County residents support this. You have our vote of confidence, but don't dawdle."

Egbert said the mere history of the area would bring people in.

"It has its name. It is known all over," Egbert said. "If you talk to the older people, they know where it is."

In Como's heyday, geo- thermal springs warmed pools, its waterslides entertained visitors, and its eateries fed the masses. The doors officially closed in 1985, and many of the structures were demolished in 1998.

Originally established for commercial gain in 1889 by Samuel Francis, Richard Fry and Dr. Thomas Shore Wadsworth, Como Springs Resort included 40 acres and geo-thermal springs of volcanic origin with water temperatures of 82 degrees. The resort was named after Italy's Lake Como at the foot of the Alps, the birthplace of Francis's wife. Through the years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints used the warm pond as a baptismal site.

In its early days, the resort included a swimming portion partitioned off from the lake portion, where visitors boated. There was also a store selling swimsuits and confectionery items and a large pavilion used for roller-skating and dances. County celebrations for the 4th and 24th of July, concerts and family gatherings often took place at the resort. In 1892, the LDS Tabernacle Choir also celebrated at the resort.

Dr. Thomas Shore Wads- worth, the resort's general manager, touted the health values of the spring water, according to "A History of Morgan County" by Linda H. Smith.

After tough economic times hit the nation in 1894, the resort fell into disrepair until 1920, when the Heiner family purchased it. The family expanded the resort to include theatrical performances, sports games, a hotel, a restaurant, a cafA(c), a hot dog stand, a bowling alley, pool halls, a live Shetland pony merry-go-round, a steam-engine ride around the lake, picnic pavilions, ice ponds, 100 dressing rooms, a boat house, 35 cottages and a manufacturing facility of mineral water.The nearly 13,000-square-foot pool was piped to bring in hot sulphur water.

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