Discovery Road – Becoming Bryce

Credit: Discovery Road

In this episode, Discovery Road travels to Bryce Canyon National Park in search of a story about a shipbuilder. Ebeneezer Bryce is the pioneer the park is named after and his story is both historic and fascinating. As a shipbuilder Bryce found himself constructing the Pine Valley Chapel in southern Utah. Discovery Road toured the structure which is now the oldest operating Mormon church in the state of Utah. In this episode, Discovery Road travels to Bryce Canyon National Park in search of a story about a shipbuilder. Ebeneezer Bryce is the pioneer the park is named after and his story is both historic and fascinating. As a shipbuilder, Bryce found himself constructing the Pine Valley Chapel in southern Utah. 

Picture of Marker describing Pine Valley Chapel and wood from the area being used to buold the organ pipes of the organ on Temple Square
Credit: Discovery Road

Discovery Road toured the structure which is now the oldest operating church for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the state of Utah. 

Credit: Discovery Road

Our next story features murals that seem to be making a comeback along the historic corridor. Muralist Patti Lewis has transformed the look and feel of Kanab, Utah with her colorful, western-themed art on stores, shops and gas stations.

Discovery Road then visits Grass Valley Mercantile in Koosharem, Utah. It’s a century-old hardware store that serves as a community gathering place and popular tourist stop. The store has aisles of supplies and adventure for everyone.

Our last stop is at a gas station that no longer pumps gasoline. Ole’s Place is a historic museum that gives tourists a chance to fill up on gas station history.

Book Signing at Dolly’s for Small Business Saturday

To mark Small Business Saturday, Dolly’s Books and Gifts in Park City hosted a book signing for author James Nelson and author/editor Monte Bona for “Legends, Lore and True Tales in Mormon Country (American Legends).”

James Nelson speaks to customers at book signing at Dolly's in Park City, Utah
Photo credit: Discovery Road

Unfortunately, Monte was unable to attend due to an unexpected scheduling conflict.

James reported:

Tourists and visitors to Dolly’s Bookstore were introduced to a myriad of Utah stories and the authors who wrote them at a recent event in the popular resort community. Author James Nelson chats with customers about “Legends, Lore & True Tales in Mormon Country.” The book is one of the many projects undertaken by the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area (MPNHA). Book store officials  say the MPNHA history compilation of stories has been a fast seller, ideal gift and a real favorite ever since its release.

If you would like to have a book signing at your location, please contact Monte Bona at (801) 699-5065.

This book is available from Amazon and several local bookstores and is a perfect gift for history buffs.

If you have any ideas for stories to be shared in a planned upcoming book, please let us know.

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Welcome Home, Ankainacephalus!

New Anklysaurid Discovered in Kane County

Paleontological Treasure Chest

A new species of dinosaur named Akainacephalus johnsoni has been discovered and announced in the Kaiparowits Formation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM), where it was found in Kane County, Utah. The find is revealing new details about the diversity and evolution of this group of armored dinosaurs. This area of Kane County has yielded a high number of dinosaur discoveries, and there is a need and local desire to develop a facility and museum at the Kanab Center, a community center building to house and showcase the fossils found in the region.

Governor Gary Herbert, along with representatives from the BLM, local elected officials, community leaders, and many others, were welcomed at the GSENM BLM Visitor Center in Big Water, on September 11, 2018 to announce a partnership between Kane County, and the BLM to develop exhibit space at the Kanab Center, to display these exciting finds. This is the 14th recently named dinosaur discovery from the area and it is anticipated that a rich future of scientific research in the paleontology field continues. The BLM regularly works with universities and researchers on these world-renowned unique discoveries. Currently, the Utah Museum of Natural History at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, houses many of the discoveries, and this effort seeks to augment these displays in a museum for the local population of the Kanab area, and for the over 4 million travelers who visit the area each year to enjoy.

Kane County Commissioner Dirk Clayson said, “We are excited for this exciting opportunity and we look forward to implementing a true to correct science exhibit that will be used for the enjoyment of not only the visitors, but also for the educational and scientific research being conducted on our public lands.” Clayson went on to say, “The BLM building in Kanab, currently has an operational laboratory facility now and we are hoping to expand the operation with a new facility. Expanded facilities exhibiting these incredible findings will be a great community asset and we are excited about the many opportunities this initiative will provide.”

From the Late Cretaceous to today

Akainacephalusis is the most complete Late Cretaceous ankylosaurid dinosaur discovered from Utah and the southwestern U.S., and is distinguished by a number of unique features, including spikes and cones of the bony exterior covering the head and snout. The dinosaur is part of a growing number of new dinosaur discoveries over the past 15 years demonstrating the incredible diversity of animals and plants living on Laramidia between 80-75 million years ago. One of the most exciting conclusions from this work highlights nearly every species of dinosaur discovered in GSENM is new to science, and Akainacephalusis is no exception.

Commissioner Clayson also said, “Our local experts and the discoveries they are unearthing are recognized as some of the best scientific exhibits in the world. It is time that we find a way to celebrate and display these discoveries locally. The local BLM Paleontology staff and volunteers led by Dr. Alan Titus, are fantastic resourceful revered professionals. Kane County expresses our sincere gratitude to the Local BLM office for their willingness to work on this partnership.”

Many new dinosaur species have been discovered in Utah

Since 2005, 14 new species of dinosaurs have been named from the Kaiparowits Plateau region, Hagryphus giganteus, Gryposaurus monumentensis, Nothronychus graffami, Diabloceratops eatoni, Utahceratops gettyi, Kosmoceratops richardsoni, Teratophoneus curriei, Nasutoceratops titusi, Talos sampsoni, Lythronax argestes, Machairoceratops cronusi, Adelolophus hutchisoni, Acristavus gaglarsoni, and most recently, Akainocephalus johnsoni. That’s an average of slightly more than one per year, which is as high a rate of discovery of new dinosaurs anywhere in the world. Several more discoveries will be published or submitted within the next two or three years, including a new armored dinosaur, two new horned dinosaurs, a new dome headed dinosaur (Pachycephalosaur), a tiny new plant eater (Hypsilophodont), a new species of Hadrosaur, and possibly a new Tyrannosaur.

Much of the research is coordinated through Alan Titus, GSENM Paleontologist, who stated, “we’ve also found some pretty bizarre non-dinosaur animals including six foot diameter lake turtles, armored giant tortoises with eggs preserved inside them, 35 foot-long alligators, and land dwelling crocodiles. The richness of fossil species in southern Utah appears to be higher than elsewhere in North American (at the same time), and it seems the place was an ecological paradise, with a warm tropical climate and plentiful rain. These finds are changing how we see the dinosaur world, indicating it was more diverse and complex in North America than previously thought.“

The Kaiparowits Plateau is truly one of the paleontological wonders of the world right now, and certainly is one of the most exciting frontiers for dinosaur research.

Bringing more research and awareness to the Kaiparowits Plateau is key

Titus also said, “So few people know about the discoveries because there is no place outside of Salt Lake City to see all these exciting finds on display. Because so many larger animals have now been, or soon will be, named, it is high time for visitors to southern Utah have a place where they can experience the same wonder and awe, that to date, has largely only been felt by the specialists who make these discoveries.“

Full mounted skeletons of the great beasts that once lived in Southern Utah during the zenith of the dinosaur age would be an amazing asset to the area and could potentially serve as a major economic engine, potentially attracting tens of thousands of visitors.

What’s New in the Mormon Pioneer Heritage Area?

The Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area Restoration projects have been plentiful over the last decade. You may not be aware of the various projects that have been completed inside the boundaries of the MPNHA. While a majority of the work has been on restoring and preserving the history of early Mormon pioneer settlers of the area, there has also been significant effort given to telling the stories of the people who shaped the unique landscapes of the MPNHA.

Over the past 12 years, the MPNHA has assisted 26 communities and seen the revitalization of  45 historic buildings/areas throughout the corridor in the telling of the Mormon pioneer story.

To date, more than 130 different MPNHA grants have facilitated the restoration of historic buildings across the heritage area, breathed new life into towns as part of main street revitalization efforts, and provided educational opportunities, including the MPHNA’s own TV show “Discovery Road” and the book “Legends, Lore & True Tales in Mormon Country,” for members of local communities and visitors to experience the lives of those early pioneers.

The Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area restoration projects were accompanied by educational programs, and historic sites, the MPNHA has contributed in the development of an agritourism/equestrian center, 3 veterans memorials (in Gunnison, Loa and Salina), trails and biking paths, three museums, commemorative kiosks and pavilions, a railroad village, and interpretive visitors centers, including the Hole-in-the-Rock Interpretive Center in Escalante.

Several of the projects have been recipients of heritage restoration and other awards, while the MPNHA itself was named “Best of State in Heritage Tourism” in 2017.

The MPNHA is committed to continuing its efforts, which have borne tremendous fruit in the communities it covers and greatly enhanced the telling of the tale of the magnificent Mormon colonization of much of the West, long into the future.

Are We Changing Our Name?

With new developments and dropping the use of the word “Mormon,” what about the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area? Will the name change?

In a nutshell, no. The Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area was named as an act of Congress and will remain so named.

Many of you have reached out to us on the phone, email or on social media. We appreciate you taking your time to reach out and inquire on our status. You see, the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area is a nationally-recognized heritage area, as well as a recognized 501(c)(3) organization. As such, it is important to note that the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area, while named with a common nickname for an organization that is a religious organization, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is a completely different entity.

Ute tribe story teller and Viet Nam veteran Larry Cesspooch at the warrior statue at the BoƩ le Hollow Veteran’s Memorial on the Ute ReservaƟ on in Fort Duchesne, Utah. Cesspooch draws on his own war experience to comment on the long ago war story of Chief Sanpitch in the Discovery Road show “The Lost Tomahawk.”

Along with all of the hard work at the early stages of the MPNHA, there were many conversations about selecting an appropriate name. These included conversations with the public relations department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During these talks, it was clear that the MPNHA was being organized to share the heritage of the early settlers and peoples in central and southern Utah, many of whom were Mormon pioneers. Additionally, the Heritage Area would share the stories of the landscape, and the interactions with the Native people and other settlers who helped shape the threads of the communities located inside the boundaries of the MPNHA.

Recently, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that it would discontinue the use of the word “Mormon” in its branding and asked its members worldwide to do the same. There would be certain exceptions to this, as detailed below, taken from the official style guide of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Mormon” is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon or when used as an adjective in such historical expressions as “Mormon Trail.”

As many of our neighbors have asked, we will continue using the legal name of the MPNHA, the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area. Changing the MPNHA’s name would require an act of congress, and be quite cumbersome to all involved.

Not sharing the stories of the early settlers of the area, who were mostly Mormon pioneers, would not do the rich history of the area justice. Their contributions to central and southern Utah is evident in every town that is inside our boundaries. It is also the case if we ignore the Native population and its similarly important heritage.

Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area

As an organization, we are committed to improving the lives of those living inside the boundaries of the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area, as well as to drive tourism into each of the five designated districts of the MPNHA, Little Denmark, Sevier Valley, Headwaters, the Boulder Loop, and Under the Rim.

Looking Forward: The Next 10 Years And Beyond

The pioneers who settled what is now the MPNHA were always driven by hope and a vision of the future. So it is with the Heritage Area.

For overall direction, the MPNHA will continue to look to its management plan and work toward the goals described therein. We will continue to operate according to our partnership philosophy, which means helping counties, cities, towns, nonprofit groups, businesses and private individuals get projects off the ground that fit Heritage Area goals.

We will continue to tell the story of the Mormon pioneers of south-central Utah with passion and impact, including continuing to promote development of interpretive sites, and preservation of landmarks and historic buildings.


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