New facilities open at Parowan Gap site

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PAROWAN, Utah -- Visitors to the Parowan Gap in southern Utah will notice some changes to the small canyon northwest of Cedar City.

The Bureau of Land Management recently completed a number of improvements to the site.

Improvements include paved walkways, a picnic area and restroom facilities. BLM outdoor recreation planner Dave Jacobson said they planned the $350,000 project to better accommodate the roughly 50,000 people who visit the area every year.

“Of course you can’t improve something already fantastic as the petroglyphs,” Jacobson said. “But the site itself needed some improvement for better access.”

Parowan Gap is said to be an ancient religious site, with connections to astronomy. Some of the petroglyphs date back thousands of years.

Researchers say it’s often been overlooked, but hope now visitors will take the time to stop and marvel at the drawings.

“For years it was kind of like, ‘why is there a fabulous place like this with no improvements,’” said astronomer Nal Morris. “Now there’s the improvements, and it will get better as the years go by.”

The gap is most widely known for its connection to the solstices. Ceremonies are held that gather hundreds of people to watch the sunrise and set through the gap at exact angles.

Morris said the precision documented in the petroglyphs is the most amazing.

“All of the tables for the yearly motion of the moon, and then around on the front, the solar motion for the sun,” Morris said. “All of that fits together very well with alignments and numbers.”

The BLM contracted with local construction companies for the work, and held an open house Tuesday to show off the new facilities.

More information on Parowan Gap can be found here: http://www.utah.com/playgrounds/parowan_gap.htm