Utah names new director to oversee its state parks

(Courtesy Utah Department on Natural Resources) Jeff Rasmussen has been named to succeed the late Fred Hayes as director of the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation.

Jeff Rasmussen has been selected to lead the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation, filling the shoes of Fred Hayes, the division’s director who died in March.

Rasmussen has worked for the agency overseeing the state’s park system for 25 years, serving as deputy director under Hayes.

He was named interim director after Hayes died.

Since taking the parks’ helm in 2012, Hayes and Rasmussen retooled the agency to attract more visitors and achieve solvency after a long period of heavy subsidies. Their vision, which called for new recreational opportunities such as biking and motorized trails, yurts, paddleboard rentals, zip lines and even yoga, is credited with putting the state parks on a sound footing.

“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. The Utah Division of Parks and Recreation has been successfully managed and thriving in recent years. Jeff’s contribution to that success is obvious and commendable,” Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Mike Styler said in a news release. “Our state parks system is in wonderful shape. Jeff has tremendous passion and shares Fred’s vision of success.”

Rasmussen began as a ranger at Antelope Island State Park and eventually landed at Yuba State Park as park manager, before becoming a regional manager.

“Our 44 state parks and programs play a critical role in meeting the growing outdoor recreation needs of Utah families, including boating, off-highway vehicle adventures, hiking, golfing, camping and reliving our past at historical parks and museums,” Rasmussen said in the release. “The division continues to experience significant growth year after year, and we’re committed to adding new and exciting recreational activities and amenities to meet the increasing demand.”