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A new poll suggests Utahns love outdoor recreation in the state but they want it mostly for themselves.
With the state's population expected to double by 2050, nearly 80 percent of Utahns support significantly expanding the capacity of public parks, trails, campgrounds and other outdoor recreation areas to avoid overcrowding.
But respondents to the Envision Utah poll were more ambivalent about promoting tourism, with more than a third opposed to campaigns meant to boost numbers of outside visitors.
A sizable majority 83 percent of Utahns said they backed the creation of a new state or national park within state boundaries, although about 31 percent backed the idea only if it didn't impose new land-use restrictions.
Respondents voiced similar levels of support for opening more recreation sites in the Wasatch Mountains to ease overuse of existing facilities.
Brad Petersen, head of the state's Office of Outdoor Recreation, created two years ago, said the results buttressed Utah's need for a comprehensive recreation strategy and funding sources to implement it.
The state has no systematic plan right now for how its recreation sites will accommodate additional use as the population rises from about 2.9 million today to 5.4 million in 35 years.
"We have to do a better job of planning for the future," Petersen said Tuesday. "We don't want to love our natural assets to death, to the point where it diminishes the experience."
A total of 52,845 Utahns took part in the Envision Utah poll, which gauged public sentiments on 11 major topics, including recreation, schools, public lands, air quality, transportation and water use.
Dubbed "Your Utah Your Future," the interactive online survey was then cross-checked by additional random-sample polling conducted by phone.
Envision Utah CEO Robert Grow said the results are meant as a guide for government policies for decades to come.
Outdoor recreation ranked relatively low on Utahns' priority list compared with jobs and the economy, water, air quality and education. But residents, nonetheless, view recreation as an important part of the spectrum of uses for public lands.
The survey found that residents' positive views of time spent outdoors were motivated by a sense that it contributed to close, happy families as well as individual health, longevity and well-being.
Nearly 79 percent of respondents favored additional spending to expand the capacity of Utah's recreation sites and avoid overcrowding. But they differed on promoting tourism with campaigns geared to out-of-state residents.
Forty-two percent of respondents supported plans costing up to $5 billion to expand, improve and create trails, campsites, picnic areas and parks, as well as added spending on tourism-promotion efforts. Another 37 percent supported the same approach to recreation areas without boosting tourism, at a cost of $4.8 billion.
About two-thirds of Utahns said they supported spending government money to create interconnected parks and trails systems in their communities, even if it meant paying a modest tax hike.