Is Bridal Veil Falls destined to be Utah's next state monument?

An undated photo of Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon. The Utah County Commission on Wednesday passed a resolution paving the way for the area to become a state monument.

An undated photo of Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon. The Utah County Commission on Wednesday passed a resolution paving the way for the area to become a state monument. (Devon Dewey, KSL.com)


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PROVO — Bridal Veil Falls is one step closer to receiving state monument status, although Utah County leaders aren't completely convinced it's the best future for one of the county's prized natural splendors.

The Utah County Commission on Wednesday voted 2-1 on a resolution to support making Bridal Veil Falls a state monument. Of course, it's ultimately up to the Utah Legislature to make that happen — but all signs seem to point that direction.

Commissioner Bill Lee, who introduced the resolution, said the county has worked with the land's owner, Utah Open Lands, Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, Utah Division of State Parks director Jeff Rasmussen and others over the past year to help figure out the best path for the future of the waterfall.

The resolution notes that it is "in the best interest of Utah County" to support the Utah Division of State Parks in its efforts to oversee the preservation and maintenance of Bridal Veil Falls.

"Preserving Bridal Veil Falls for future generations remains an ongoing goal of mine dating back to the beginning of my time as a Utah County commissioner. I am grateful that the state has stepped up and recognized Bridal Veil Falls as the special place that it is," he said in a statement after the meeting.

The Legislature's website shows Stratton is working on a resolution calling for the designation of Bridal Veil Falls State Monument. That bill has yet to be numbered or introduced during the current legislative session.

Lee said state officials requested that the county adopt a resolution supporting monument status before it begins the legislative process. Lawmakers have until March 4 to pass all bills during this year's session.

A spokesperson for the Utah Division of State Parks told KSL.com the division is aware of the resolution and will continue to work with Stratton and others feedback as they hash out details of a bill that would designate the waterfall as a state monument.

All three commissioners agree that the waterfall needs to be preserved, but the only disagreement seems to be how to preserve it, resulting in a 2-1 decision. Commissioner Amelia Powers Gardner cast the lone vote against the resolution, explaining that she has concerns about future accessibility.

During Wednesday's meeting, she recalled the many memories of her family traveling up Provo Canyon to visit Bridal Veil Falls because it was one of the very few options for her family, which didn't have a lot of money when she grew up.

Even to this day, it's one of the few iconic Utah outdoors locations that people can view up close for free — or, for Wasatch Front residents, spend money traveling to. It's likely why millions visit the area annually.

Her concern with a monument status is that it will eventually lead to visitation fees to cover the costs of maintenance by the waterfall. That could make it difficult for the entire area to be accessible for everyone.

"I do believe it is a gem of our county. ... I think we all have the same end goal here, and that's to preserve Bridal Veil Falls and keep it accessible. I think we just disagree on the method of doing so," she said, explaining her vote. "I feel if the state would take it over, they would charge a fee — and knowing that this was such a pivotal part of my childhood, I want to ensure that it can maintain and be a part of every childhood in this county, regardless of their means."

Lee said he also had those concerns but explained that under any monument agreement, the county would continue to manage the area on a "day-to-day basis." Therefore there would be no visitation fees like state parks have. In fact, visitors probably wouldn't notice much of a difference other than a new plaque.

So why would the county push for that agreement? Lee said it would provide the county with more opportunities to afford to preserve the waterfall area.

"It's out of the box, so this is not what the state normally does with state monuments," he said. "But we wanted that designation because we then can also apply for grants to help out, and the conservation easement (on the land) also has grants that (Utah Open Lands) will go for. It just brings it up on a higher level for us to offset some of the other (transient room tax) monies we have there."

But that didn't persuade Gardner, who said she would like to see a permanent agreement in writing before agreeing to make the waterfall a state monument in case a future state employee changes the structure of the agreement.

Tom Sakievich, the Utah County Commission chairman, voted in favor of the resolution, breaking the tie. He noted the county could also revoke its resolution if the state doesn't move forward with the management agreement.

The vote is the latest update to an area that's been at the focus of preservation in recent years.

Utah County acquired five parcels of land by the falls for $2.4 million in 2015, and the commission approved $900,000 in funding for access upgrades in 2019. Then, in the following year, an Orem businessman offered to purchase those parcels, proposing a development plan that included a lodge by the top of the waterfall and a tram that would hover over the Provo River to the building.

The commission, in December 2020, ultimately voted against the offer in favor of awarding the property to Utah Open Lands along with a conservation easement that would bar any future business development, following backlash from residents and neighboring cities.

Since then, there have been efforts to transfer the lands in some form or fashion over to the Utah Division of State Parks, either in the form of a state park or state monument. The division was awarded $1.2 million for this current fiscal year for items related to Bridal Veil Falls, according to Utah Legislature records.

County officials said Wednesday that the design of a new pedestrian bridge in the area was just approved, which is expected to be installed later this year. There are also plans for a new vault toilet, as well as trail and parking improvements expected in the near future.

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Carter Williams is a reporter who covers general news, local government, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.

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