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With buyout in place, Echo Reservoir destined to be Utah’s newest state park

With buyout in place, Echo Reservoir destined to be Utah’s newest state park

(Scott G Winterton, KSL, File)

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COALVILLE — The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has reached an agreement on a buyout with a private owner of Echo Reservoir’s concessions and resort that will, in turn, lead the way for it to become Utah’s newest state park, officials at both the bureau and Utah State Parks said.

The official buyout will occur Nov. 1, and Utah State Parks will then work with the bureau over the future of the reservoir, said Utah State Parks communications specialist Devan Chavez.

Once complete, it would be the 12th state park in which Utah State Parks helps run with Bureau of Reclamation land.

Other parks under the current deal between agencies include Deer Creek, Jordanelle, Rockport and Willard Bay.

Wayne Pullen, area manager for the Bureau of Reclamation Provo Area Office, which oversees the reservoir land, said Echo Reservoir will likely be amended into the contract the bureau currently has with state parks after Nov. 1.

“We’ve got this great partnership. They know what they’re doing, and so we’re forward to the chance to construct new facilities and turn the Echo Reservoir into the kind of family destination that we have at (other state parks in northern Utah),” he said.

“We are dam builders, and we are dam pipeline and canal operators and overseers. We are not recreation experts, and so we have this great partnership between the federal government and the state government making use of their knowledge of the state and the preferences of people in the state with respect to recreation and we invite them to come in and operate those facilities,” he continued.

The dam and reservoir were constructed during the Great Depression in the 1930s for the purpose of helping agricultural irrigation in northern Utah, Pullen said. More dams were added around the area in the 1950s. At 1,394 acres, it later became a popular recreation and fishing spot.

In 1968, Joy Ray and other schoolteachers in the Coalville area began running the concessions for the reservoir and the resort on the property, said Marlon Duke, a spokesman for the Bureau of Reclamation. She has run it since.

Echo Reservoir in October 2016 (Photo: Scott G Winterton, KSL, File)
Echo Reservoir in October 2016 (Photo: Scott G Winterton, KSL, File)

However, the bureau came to Ray with a contract buyout proposal, which both sides agreed to with Ray thinking about retiring, Pullen said. Duke did not say what the terms of the deal were, but called the buyout “mutually beneficial.”

“She’s a delightful woman and has really served the public,” Pullen said, expressing gratitude for Ray’s time overseeing the recreation aspect of the reservoir.

What Echo Reservoir will look like, per se, remains unknown. Pullen said public input may come into play once both the bureau and state officials discuss the reservoir. Chavez noted nothing is set in stone; however, he noted the park will likely look like other state parks run on bureau land.

That would include new facilities, boat docks, concessions for watercraft rentals, campgrounds for RVs and tents, camping pads and cabins.

That comes with a caveat, Pullen said. Any changes made likely won’t be noticed until after 2018 as new facilities are put in place. However, he’s optimistic about the future of the reservoir with land that can be developed near Coalville, as well as where a resort has been.

Regardless, both the state and federal sides remain hopeful the agreement will lead to more access for those wishing to recreate at Echo Reservoir.

“We’re hoping to turn Echo into something like that that can help alleviate pressure from (the other parks) and also give the public something they’re not used to seeing in that area,” Chavez said. “(It’ll) give them another great place to go out and recreate.”

Contributing: Peter Samore

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.


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