ANTELOPE ISLAND STATE PARK, Utah (AP) -- State park officials thinking about offering booked tours to the closed, southeast area of Antelope Island State Park held a test trip Tuesday evening.
The northeast side of the island is open to visitors and includes the Great Salt Lake marina and a visitors center.
However, the area south of the historic Fielding-Garr Ranch House has been closed to the public since 1981. It is a breeding ground for bison and has other wildlife.
Park rangers took 26 people to the southeast area in an open-air amphibious vehicle Tuesday evening. It was a trial run of how they might allow the public into the area this fall without impacting the ecosystem.
"I think it's a hoot," said Ken Kraus, Utah Travel Council media relations manager and one of the passengers.
Kraus said the "soft-adventure" tour would provide a tremendous increase in local interest, while serving as the perfect setting for out-of-area birdwatchers.
"I think this program goes so to the heart of the interest," he said.
Park manager Ron Taylor said many of the island animals and migratory birds have found refuge on the southeast side of the island because it has been closed to the public for so many years, and the deer in the area have grown to a magnificent size.
Taylor said he envisions the two-hour tours, initially to be offered on weekends.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)