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Utah Travel Headlines

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Visitor Center Proposed For Bonneville Salt Flats At ‘Tree Of Utah’

As you drive I-80 west of Salt Lake City, you cut across the starkly desolate Bonneville Salt Flats. Along the way you pass what is called the “Tree of Utah,” a large sculpture that somewhat resembles a giant saguaro cactus with tennis balls on top.

The Salt Flats are a major Utah attraction and the Tree has long been a curiosity. Now the creator wants to add a visitor center to the site. He has drawn up plans and is in talks with state leaders.

The Republic newspaper, Columbus, Indiana, has this article about the proposal. Below are excerpts.

Some find the man-made tree fascinating, others have used it for target practice over the years. But the world-famous artist who fell in love with Utah's desert 30 years ago, wants to make his artwork more accessible and has begun meeting with state officials to make that happen.

(Karl) Momen became fascinated with what he calls the magnificent desert landscape driving to and from California 25 years ago. He designed a tree, signifying life in a place seemingly void of life.

To protect the work from vandals, a metal fence surrounds it. Momen wants to give the area new life and has now designed a visitors center with an overlook, cafe, souvenir shop, restrooms and parking. He envisions something serene. "You sit there . and you don't have any interruption of traffic, buildings, anything, just plain desert."

He says his sculpture remains internationally popular, largely because of the Internet. Between August and October, more than 1.2 million people saw the "tree" on Facebook and YouTube, he said.

Momen estimates the cost for the center will be between $1 million and $3 million. He says he has out-of-state donors, foundations in the Silicon Valley.

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