USU Moab master plan unveiled at public open house

Utah State University officials unveiled USU’s master plan for a regional satellite campus in Moab during a public open house on Dec. 13 at the Grand Center.

The two-hour event included presentations by USU officials and architects, along with time for questions and answers. About 80 people attended the meeting.

“I have an absolute conviction that access to education enriches communities,” said Steve Hawks, associate dean and executive director for USU’s southeast region, as he welcomed those in attendance.

The USU Moab master plan spans 30 years and is expected to be implemented in several phases, Hawks said, adding that the first phase is at least five years away from completion.

The 40-acre site that is the projected home of the future USU campus is a square parcel located amid 326 acres of surrounding property owned and administered by the State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA). The two parcels are located south of the current Moab city limits and to the west of Highway 191 at roughly 2000 South, but city officials are currently moving forward with plans to annex the properties.

Roughly half of the USU parcel is considered to be developable land, said architect Terrall Budge of Design Workshop. He said the surrounding terrain will be left in its natural state to preserve the native landscape.

Budge said the architects focused on making the design fit with Grand County’s “unique setting.” The overall goal, he said, was to create a design that had the best balance among four key areas: community, environment, art, and economics.

“The idea is to create a sense of place,” Budge said, adding that the design is meant to reduce the environmental impact by utilizing renewable energy sources, recycling rainwater for irrigation, incorporating pedestrian paths and bike trails, and using sustainable and ecologically friendly building materials.

Budge said that in the initial phase, no dormitories or on-campus housing facilities are planned, but housing would likely be part of later phases.

The first phase is expected to accommodate between 600 and 800 students, Budge said, and the campus may eventually serve as many as 3,500 students when all phases are completed. At that point, the campus is expected to include some 430,000 square feet of building space, including a student union and an optional central plant.

Each phase of buildings is designed so that related programs can be implemented together and share facilities, Budge said.

Hawks said that much of the funding for the project’s first phase will come from a $15 million gift from local resident Wendy Walker-Tibbetts and her family, a partnership-based donation that was announced in October.

In addition to the Walker family gift, Hawks said the university is also indebted to the Ray C. and Ruth Holyoak family estate, which donated 20 acres of land in 1995 to be used for the future campus. Also, Moab city has established a higher education fund and has set aside an initial $75,000, Hawks said, and additional fundraising efforts are ongoing.

Hawks said afterward that he was pleased with the community’s overall response to the open house.

“The willingness of the community to invest time and energy to understanding the goals and underlying principles of the master plan, and to offer comments and ask insightful questions, was deeply appreciated,” Hawks said.

Hawks also thanked the members of the USU Moab Advisory Board and the larger community group, the Higher Education Action Team (HEAT), for their help in creating a vision for the future campus. The HEAT team is comprised of local government officials, business leaders, and state and federal partners, Hawks said, noting that USU has been working closely with several governmental agencies throughout the planning stages of the project.

Advisory board chairman Joe Kingsley said board members have been meeting regularly with USU officials over the past several years, spending hundreds of hours planning and supporting a regional campus in Moab. In addition to Kingsley, current advisory board members are Chris Baird, Donna Metzler, Jeanette Kopell, Jim Webster, Roy Barraclough, Sarah Bauman, Sena Hauer, and Tara Richardson. Ken Davey, Mike Chandler, and Sheila Canavan have also helped, Kingsley said, adding that USU employees Hawks, Sam Sturman and Jan Radcliff are ex-officio members.

Hawks said that the combined and dedicated efforts of numerous community members are making an important difference in Moab’s future.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a campus that is consistent with Moab’s natural setting, takes advantage of the many unique learning opportunities afforded by our surroundings, and provides community members with greater access to a wide array of higher education resources and opportunities,” Hawks said. “My heartfelt thanks goes out to our community for their ongoing support of higher education.”

ByBy Jeff Richards

contributing writer