Last updated: February 5, 2014
Monday, February 3 is a black letter date in the history of Timpanogos Cave. This year, on this date, we mark the 23rd anniversary of the early morning electrical fire that destroyed virtually all of our 28 year old visitor center and headquarters building. Today we still operate out of the modular building towed up the canyon just ahead of Memorial Day in 1991, though it was only intended to last 2-3 years at most (no small credit to our maintenance staff who kept it functional all of these years).
To recount all of the twists and turns in the road from 1991 to today would take far more ink than this blog allows, but I would like to let you know where we stand in the two decades since the fire.
We plan to remove the modular visitor center building and build a small permanent structure just east of the current site, where there is less chance of rockfall hitting it. At the same time, the traffic lanes of SR 92 will be moved slightly north, closer to the river where there are now parking spaces. In turn, those parking spaces will move to a slightly larger parking lot on the same side of the road as the trailhead and visitor building. We are on the National Park Service 5-year construction plan for this project, and we hope to receive funding for this work within the next 3-4 years.
At the same time, we still hope to move our administrative offices, bookstore, and some exhibits to a new interagency facility in Highland, just south of SR 92 on land acquired by the Forest Service for this purpose. They would move their offices from their Pleasant Grove facility, and we would combine both agencies under one roof to share costs and work more efficiently. So far, we have not received funding for this building, and only time will tell how such proposals will fare in future budgets.
After the fire, managers recognized that traffic would continue to increase as population and recreational demand grew in the canyon, and proposed a shuttle bus system from Highland to Timpanogos Cave. After years of talking about costs and feasibility, we performed an alternative transportation study in 2012 and decided that such a shuttle would cost more than people would be willing to pay for the loss of convenience, but left open the idea of revisiting it the future as conditions changed.
Demand for outdoor recreation of all kinds is booming along the Wasatch Front, and American Fork Canyon is no exception. Plans will continue to evolve, and I hope that you will stay engaged and make your voice heard when opportunities arise. Hopefully, one day soon we will see a groundbreaking for a new visitor contact station, though even then we will not soon forget February 3, the day the visitor center burned.