ST. GEORGE — A new roadway that will help divert national park-bound traffic away from the heart of Toquerville, as well as an announcement for a planned development that will accompany the new road, were presented to residents of the small community Saturday afternoon.
“This is an amazing event for Toquerville. We’ve got big things coming up,” Toquerville Mayor Lynn Chamberlain told town residents gathered at the town park. Chamberlain was one of a handful of officials who spoke about the Toquerville Bypass and the anticipated changes that roadway will bring with it.
The new roadway, which will be built on the western side of Toquerville where a dirt road already exists, will connect traffic coming off Interstate 15 to state Route 9 without having to pass through Toquerville proper. Chamberlain said this has been in the works for many years and has only been able to move forward in the last couple of years.
“It’ll be the fastest, shortest way to Zion (National Park),” Chamberlain said, adding that getting to the national park by way of Hurricane involves going through 11 sets of traffic signals.
While the new roadway will be built to handle the traffic heading to Zion National Park and help calm down traffic through the main part of Toquerville, Chamberlain said change will come with the roadway as well.
Like many longtime residents, he said he was saddened by the prospect of Toquerville changing, but that change is going to happen regardless. Because of that, the changes needs to be handled in the best way possible.
“It’s a sleepy little town and things have to be handled right,” Chamberlain said.
Still, the changes can be beneficial, the mayor said. Along with the new bypass will come a new community being planned by developer Darcy Stewart. Among Stewart’s better-known projects in Washington County is the SunRiver St. George community.
“This road allows Toquerville to continue to be Toquerville,” Stewart said prior to sharing some details surrounding new community he called Firelight Toquerville.
The development, which will start with an active adult community similar to SunRiver, will also help bring commercial development into Toquerville. It is also anticipated that the Firelight community will act as an additional transportation hub where visitors can come and take shuttles to Zion National Park, Stewart said.
This, along with the bypass will continue to help keep the heart of Toquerville from being overrun traffic heading to and from the national park.
“This effort is to preserve that you have the best way that we can,” Stewart said. “This is going to be an amazing community.”
Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, also spoke to Toquerville residents and mentioned the $1.2 billion the Utah Legislature had recently approved for transportation infrastructure projects.
Prior to the approval of the massive infrastructure funding, Ipson said he and fellow Southern Utah legislators Sen. Evan Vickers and Rep. Brad Last had been working on getting the Toquerville Bypass project funded.
“The timing couldn’t have been better to bring it forward,” he said.
Funding for the bypass will become available in May, followed by a groundbreaking for the road and Firelight community sometime in July or August.
“I think this is one of the most impactful things to happen to Toquerville to begin with,” Chamberlain said.
One of the reasons Chamberlain said he ran for mayor was to help move the bypass project forward.
“It’s going to mean a lot for Toquerville,” he said. “It’s going to mean some revenue for the city, jobs for people who live here and children growing up here.”
The bypass and accompanied development will also bring in “new friends and a lot of new faces,” Chamberlain said, adding he expects to see Toquerville’s population to increase by 4,500-5,000 new rooftops over the next 15-20 years.
While not highlighted during the community meeting, a third project, slated to start sometime this fall, is the Toquer Reservoir. This project is being overseen by the Washington County Water Conservancy District, and is not directly connected to the Toquerville Bypass over Firelight development being in the same general area.
“That’s just the icing on the cake,” Chamberlain said of the reservoir. “It’s going to be pretty cool having all of that happening at the same time.”
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