hurricane • A new water park billed as Southern Utah’s largest is opening for five months, but owner Scott Nielson is hoping it will make a splash when it debuts in the drought-stricken area sometime next summer.
Zion Utah Jellystone Park, a $50 million resort taking shape just outside of Hurricane on Sand Hollow Road, is already making waves with some people who appreciate the wisdom and optics of opening such a water park during a historic drought Ask a Question.
“Not being a ‘Debbie Downer’, but not [we] should save water? How can this park happen with [the] Lack of water is a problem?” asks Christine Sheen on the park’s Facebook page.
“Ah yes. A water park. In the middle of a drought. It’s certainly a fantastic idea and you can’t go wrong,” said Josh Blankenship of Millville.
Such feelings are not unfounded. Without additional water sources, Washington County could only have enough water for five to seven years for new construction, according to Ivins Mayor Chris Hart, who serves on the board of directors for the Washington County Water Conservancy District.
Despite these concerns, Nielson strives to get involved and address people’s water concerns. He said the 53-acre park, which features Hanna-Barbera’s cartoon favorites like Yogi Bear, his sidekick Boo Boo and Ranger Rick, will feature the latest landscaping and technology that will drastically reduce water usage.
When it opens next summer on a date to be determined, the first phase of the park will feature a 1.5 million gallon pond with 10 luxury “lakefront” rental cabins, 75 RV camping sites, a huge children’s playground, and a jellystone Aquatic zone featuring a 45-foot water tower, two super-fast speed slides, an inner tube slide and another toilet-bowl-like slide dubbed the “Royal Flush.”
Other attractions include an adult pool, children’s pool, two giant hot tubs, and a 500-foot lazy river with access to a beach of sand imported from California. There will also be a general store and snack bar, gazebos, basketball and pickleball courts, a boo boo splash pad, and a pillow jump, among other things.
Phases two and three of Jellystone will increase the number of RV sites to 250 and add bathhouses and black-light mini-golf with animatronics, all of which are expected to be completed by late 2023 or early 2024. Another signature activity will be gem mining, a sluice where children can select rocks, shells and gems. Rounding out the recreation menu are Modern Warfare Laser Tag and Gaga Ball, a high-speed dodgeball imitation played in an octagonal enclosure.
“This is massive, unlike anything southern Utah has ever seen,” said Nielson, who touts the park as a premier tourist attraction that will appeal to visitors from around the world, including Europe and Asia.
where does the water come from
Nielson sold his RV dealership in St. George last year and is plowing the millions he made from the deal into building the park, which will become one of 80 parks affiliated with the Jellystone brand. The Hurricane businessman estimates that he owns approximately 33 acres of water rights — a combination of his own water rights, water rights he acquired from neighboring property owners, and water rights to a well he acquired with the property. An acre foot is approximately 326,000 gallons, which is enough water to cover an acre of land about a foot deep.
In addition, the park will purchase culinary water from the Washington County Water Conservancy District — about 15 acre-feet, the equivalent amount consumed annually by 15 households for drinking purposes, according to Zach Renstrom, the district’s executive director.
“From a drinking water perspective, it’s not an outrageous amount of water,” Renstrom said, adding that there’s no analysis of how much feed water is needed for the recreational aspects of the park.
Most water attractions in the park require culinary-grade water. Nielson said he’s not sure at this point if he can do that by treating the well water he’s tapping from the underground aquifer, or if he’ll have to buy more drinking water from the district.
“We will try to use our own water source,” Nielson said. “But at the end of the day, if we have to buy it for the water park because of health regulations and other things, we will.”
Edward Andrechak, Conserve Southwest Utah’s water program manager, said relying on culinary water to operate the park is problematic. Even if the Jellystone can reuse water, he added, water parks in desert environments are notorious for water losses through evaporation.
“For my whole life, if [you] If you had the whole state of Utah to choose from for a water park, I don’t know why you would want to put it there,” he said. “It fails the common sense test. A water park is the last thing you want to put there.”
Hurricane Mayor Nanette Billings insists it should be different, saying property owners should be free to use the water rights they own for development.
“He owns the right and we only care about the constitution and personal property rights,” the mayor said.
Also, Billings argued, water issues are often exaggerated because people forget that water is a renewable resource.
“You have to remember the water cycle – evaporation and condensation create precipitation, and then we pull it up from the ground from an aquifer,” the mayor explained. “And [then] You start the water cycle again. So sometimes people forget that God created water. We must not forget that it comes from him. And it’s only part of the cycle. We have to rely on that.”
Try to save water
For his part, Nielson is promoting the water conservation measures he plans to implement. For example, he has invested over half a million dollars to purchase 500,000 square feet of artificial turf for RV sites. He also imagines drawing well water from the pond and watering the trees in the park with drip irrigation.
“We’ve been very responsible and used as little water as possible,” he said.
Doug Ferrell, the water engineer, said evaporation wouldn’t be a major problem for the splash guard and slides because the water is stored underground and is constantly being circulated, refiltered, and chemically mixed. Expensive regenerative filters installed reduce the amount of water needed to remove particles and contaminants from the filters by 30%.
The water features in the park total about 15,300 square feet and, according to Ferrell’s calculations, would lose about 43,200 gallons per day to evaporation that would need to be replaced.
“That sounds like a lot of water,” Ferrell said. “But it would only be roughly the equivalent of two three-quarter-inch garden hoses running at full blast all day and night.”
Whatever amount of water is needed to operate Jellystone, there’s no dispute that the resort will draw tourists, who are already flooding the area’s RV parks, many of which are packed to overflowing. Nielson said he has already been approached by several New York Stock Exchange-listed companies who have placed a $70 million valuation on Zion Jellystone and are looking to acquire a 50 percent interest in the park.
Washington City mom-of-two Fiona Morales, who has stayed at Jellystone parks in South Dakota and Wisconsin, is more interested in fun than finance or water.
“Me and my boys plan to spend a lot of time in Zion Jellystone,” she said. “If [the park] can take care of the water and the fun, we are there.”
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https://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2022/12/11/builders-new-water-park-utah/ Zion Utah Jellystone Park owners say water won’t be an issue