State signs off on protecting Draper archeological site

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's new governor made his first big decision Tuesday by signing off on the protection of coveted open space in Draper. It's also the site of one of the state's most important archaeological finds.

Gov. Gary Herbert held a meeting with all of the stakeholders in this dispute including state officials, the Utah Transit Authority, conservationists and Native American tribes. Last month, the tribes spoke out against the development of a rail stop and huge transit-oriented development right next to it in Draper.

Archaeologists have uncovered a 3,000-year-old archaeological site at that location, adjacent to the Jordan River and north of the Bangerter Highway. Thirty thousand artifacts have been uncovered, including some which could help rewrite history regarding the region's earliest cultivation of corn.

In 2000, lawmakers voted to permanently protect the land--200-plus acres known as the Galena property. But a conservation easement was never executed. The proposed project has also been mired in controversy regarding allegations of conflicts of interest on the agency's board. With the blessing of Gov. Herbert, who took office a week ago, the state signed the conservation easement Tuesday. The land now cannot be developed.

"I think, at the end of the day, everybody can feel very good about it. It's a collaborative effort. There are no losers here. There are only winners," Herbert said.

Tribal leader Rupert Steele said, "We have a lot of things to learn from the site, in terms of educating not only ourselves, but our children as well."

UTA will now take a look at three other possible locations for the stop: two in Draper and one in Bluffdale.


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John Daley


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