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Antelope Island State Park visitor’s center expansion receives boost from donation

By Rob Nielsen - | Mar 2, 2024

Leah Hogsten, The Salt Lake Tribune

People tour the Antelope Island State Park Visitor Center on Friday, April 8, 2022. The same day, the Utah Division of State Parks announced that the center will be renovated and expanded to meet the growth of the park, which had over 1 million visitors last year.

A long-sought expansion of the Antelope Island State Park visitor’s center is just about out of the planning stages and nearly ready for bids. And this week, it received a sizable financial gift.

According to a press release, the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation has donated $2.2 million to the Antelope Island Learning Center and Utah Water Ways “for Utah’s water conservation and educational outreach efforts.”

“Funding for the Antelope Island Learning Center will be routed through the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation,” the release said. “The Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation is the nation’s leading advocate for entrepreneurial thought in conservation and will create an educational curriculum for the Antelope Island Learning Center.”

State officials are happy to hear the announcement.

“We are grateful for the Miller family’s commitment to water conservation,” Joel Ferry, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, said in Monday’s release. “We are excited to start educational outreach programs to Utahns, encouraging them to come to the Antelope Island Learning Center and learn about the unique history and needs of the Great Salt Lake.”

Antelope Island State Park Manager Wendy Wilson told the Standard-Examiner on Wednesday that the Learning Center has been in the plans for nearly 30 years.

“When the visitor’s center was built back in 1997, that was Phase 1,” she said. “It was always a plan to have a Phase 2 and that plan, over the years, kind of got forgotten until a few years ago. One of the people who originally helped build that visitor’s center brought it back to the attention of the state park.”

She said funding eventually was acquired from the state and Davis County to expand the visitor’s center and add a Learning Center. The plans originally were announced in 2022.

Wilson said the visitor’s center as it exists hasn’t always been adequate for handling the park’s mission.

“I started here in 2011 and, at that time, our park visitation was about 250,000-280,000 visitors per year, and a number of those were school kids — they would do field trips to the park and they would come into the visitor’s center,” she said. “Over the years, the visitation increased. Now we’re pushing, and sometimes over, 1 million visitors per year. The space within that visitor’s center just was not able to accommodate both the general public as well as school groups. One of the hard decisions that was made probably 10 years ago is that visiting school field trips wouldn’t be able to come into the visitor’s center.”

The expansion will include a theater, learning spaces that will be able to accommodate school and academic groups alongside the general public, a gift shop, exhibits and rentable event space for several different types of functions, plus a catering kitchen to go along with it.

Wilson said bids are expected to be sought later this spring with an opening sometime in the summer of 2025.

“We’re really excited,” she said. “It’s going to be a great addition to state parks in general.”


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