SPRINGDALE (AP) — The small crowd cheered as local leaders smashed gold-tipped sledgehammers into the old wood door of a home on Zion Park Boulevard Thursday.
A former motel built with wood from Zion National Park will be rebuilt as the Springdale History Center, a museum dedicated to the legacy of the national park's gateway town, the Spectrum newspaper reported.
"What we've been trying to do for a number of years is to create a more rich and meaningful experience for the visitors who come here," Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office Director Kevin Lewis said. "The people that we really want to come here are the ones who will ... become contributors to the community versus consumers."
Mayor Stan Smith, who has lived in Springdale for over 50 years, Washington County Commissioner Gil Almquist and Zion Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh were also in attendance.
"I thought growing up in Springdale was tough but settling Springdale was tougher," Smith said of the homesteaders who founded the town in 1864.
In 2019, Washington County Commission approved nearly $400,000 of tourism tax dollars to renovate the motel into a museum.
It will feature a natural history element and elements from local Native American history through exhibits, presentations and hands-on experiences.
"People often just see the beauty and then they wonder well what was the history and unless you have historic buildings or historic museums, that history is lost," Almquist said. "I love the fact that it will be displayed here for all to appreciate."
At the "renovation kick-off" event, Almquist, Smith and Lewis briefly spoke to a small crowd gathered in front of the building, and then ceremonially began construction by breaking down the door. Visitors were then allowed to tour the gutted house.
Lila Moss, 72, lived in the very house that is being renovated for the museum and said she is happy to see the old Canyon Ranch Motel she operated in the '70s be repurposed, partly her idea.
"This building was special and represented in many ways the kind of hospitality that built this town," she said.
However, as a long-time Springdale resident and member of the historical society, Moss is concerned about how busy the town has become with high tourism numbers.
"In many ways, we are being loved to death," she said. "I'd really rather it was not so crowded."
Lewis said the property is right in the heart of walkable Springdale, and it will help spread some of the tourists out from Zion.
"We are most excited about another reason for (tourists) to be here," he said.
The museum will also provide "recreational suggestions" for visitors to explore the greater area, a press release said.
"This will be a tremendous asset to the community," Bradybaugh said.
Construction is to begin imminently, with a goal to be completed by November.
K. Sophie Will is the National Parks Reporter for The Spectrum & Daily News through the Report for America initiative by The GroundTruth Project.