Lost Creek to implement fees, but will the new Utah state park's expansion be delayed?

Autumn leaves change by Lost Creek Reservoir in Morgan County on Oct. 19, 2011. Lost Creek State Park was re-established in 2021. New day-use and camping fees will be collected beginning next week ahead of enhancements to the park that may begin later this year.

Autumn leaves change by Lost Creek Reservoir in Morgan County on Oct. 19, 2011. Lost Creek State Park was re-established in 2021. New day-use and camping fees will be collected beginning next week ahead of enhancements to the park that may begin later this year. (Jeffrey D Allred, Deseret News)



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CROYDON, Morgan County — One of Utah's newest state parks will begin to charge day-use and camping fees beginning Monday, ahead of work to expand it into a more significant outdoor recreation destination in the northeast part of the state.

However, with construction costs at an all-time high, park officials caution it's possible that visitors will have to wait for the ideas to come to fruition.

"We're chomping at the bit, though. We want to move forward with this as quickly as possible because we have such beautiful plans," said Chris Haramoto, the park manager for Lost Creek and East Canyon state parks.

New fees

The Utah Division of State Parks will begin collecting $10 day-use fees and $20 for overnight camping at Lost Creek State Park. These fees can be paid online via a QR code placed on park signage or in-person through fee boxes at the ranger stations at the park's entrance, according to the division.

Haramoto explained that the money collected will be used to help make improvements to the park area and fund the staff that works at the park.

Dispersed camping at the Little Trail Creek campsite existed prior to Lost Creek State Park's establishment, or re-establishment, last year. Lost Creek was a state park in the 1990s heading into the early 2000s, but then Utah leaders handed the management of the land back to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees Lost Creek Reservoir. Morgan County operated it afterward until the Utah Legislature approved a bill last year that made it a state park again.

Fees were not collected at the state park the first year it was re-established.

The future of Lost Creek

Changes are also on the horizon using the more than $7 million the Utah Legislature allotted the park when it was re-established last year, according to Haramoto. Planning for the first phase of improvements — new modern campgrounds with power and water and space for motorhomes, restrooms, entrances and trailheads — began last summer right after it officially rejoined the state park fold.

It's unclear when construction will begin for the phase. Ideally, it would begin this fall; but inflation, high gas prices, labor shortages and supply issues that are disrupting the global construction industry may put the future of the park on hold for a bit.


We're just a little bit worried that some of the bids that come back ... might be a little bit more than the value of what we can get if we just wait a little longer.

–Chris Haramoto, Lost Creek and East Canyon state parks


Calls for contracting bids are expected in the coming weeks, and park officials are concerned that the quotes they get back may end up steeper than what they'd like to see given these issues in the industry. Haramoto said that recent estimated costs for similar state parks projects in the state "have been coming in very high," meaning that the money allotted to Lost Creek may not result in as much as it could when the Legislature approved the funds.

As he puts it, $7 million won't go as far as it used to. If that's the case, the division could hold construction to a later time when at least some of the problems are solved and they can get more bang for their buck.

"We're just a little bit worried that some of the bids that come back ... might be a little bit more than the value of what we can get if we just wait a little longer," Haramoto said. "When those bids come back, we'll just see if the value is there to take advantage of construction at this point with the way the economy is."

The timetable will ultimately be determined by the bids from contractors. Park officials believe all the changes will be in place by the fall of 2023 if construction does begin this fall as hoped. "Primitive" campsites will still be available throughout most of the construction, Haramoto added.

When the construction is finished — whenever it is — park officials believe Lost Creek will help with the growing demand for camping space and outdoor recreation in Utah.

A record 11.6 million visitors flocked to state parks in 2021 and the interest in state parks hasn't slowed down one bit this year. Many of Utah's state park campsites are already booked out through the summer, showing how much of a demand there is right now for camping space.

This is why developing campgrounds has become one of the top priorities for the division in recent years. It's also why Lost Creek State Park officials are looking into additional areas at the park for future day-use locations and campsites, after the first phase of construction is completed.

"Even though we don't have the funding in this phase one to do more, I think, potentially, we'll be able to do more in later phases," Haramoto said. "(Visitors should) just be patient with the developments coming. Obviously, with this first phase, we want to get it done and get it moving as quick as we can, but sometimes construction takes a little bit longer than we'd like."

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

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