Staff Column: Let's create Wasatch Mountain National Park
I've decided that today I am writing a letter to Jim Matheson and Orrin Hatch proposing some legislation I think that all of rural Utah would like to see, although I doubt they will want to sponsor the bill I am proposing. So I guess I will have to find some obscure eastern congressman who would want to sponsor it; you know, one that has has never been west of Chicago or someone like that.
I want to propose that Congress create a Wasatch Mountains National Park. It's boundaries would roughly be on the north, Intestate 80, on the west Foothill Boulevard (in Salt Lake) down through Highway 89 (as it runs along the mountains in the Provo area, and over to I-15 south of Payson to Nephi. The south boundary would be Highway 132 (approximately from Nephi to Mount Pleasant and the east boundary would run up Highway 89 from Fairview up past Highway 6 through Diamond Fork, up through just west of Midway in the Heber Valley, over to Highway 40 up to intestate 80.
This area is in great danger of loosing its natural and spiritual beauty. Within it resides some of the prettiest mountain country in the nation (much like Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado). We have already lost so much of it, so I would like to see us stop the development, construction and it being overrun by people with their skis, bikes and hiking packs.
As to it's beauty, therein resides Mt. Olympus, Twin Peaks, Lone Peak, Mt. Timpanogas and Mt. Nebo. There are many near pristine lakes in the area, numerous waterfalls that are unique such as Donut Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. There is the wonderful Timpanogas Cave, as well as many scenic and historic attractions. The mountains themselves are majestic as almost any in the country, yet they are only protected by a few state parks, one small national monument and the Wasatch-Cache National Forest. There is a lot of private land within the area, but much of that was taken by those who were first there, before the government had time to reign in the land grabbers.
Of course this would mean some big changes for those who want to use or to own property in that area. First we would have to rip out Deer Creek Reservoir since it covered up a natural canyon that was by most accounts beautiful. Salt Lake can get their water from Jordenelle and Mountain Dell Reservoirs, or they could steal it from Sanpete County after they get the Gooseberry Project built.
Then there is the problem of ski resorts, probably one of the largest environmental disasters the Wasatch Range has had since the white man took over in the area. Mountains have been denuded of their trees, lifts and gondolas built, restaurants and housing placed in places where deer and moose used to roam. There is also the constant problem of people being there in large numbers, their sewage creating problems downstream. We would have to close Snowbird, Solitude, Alta, all the Park City resorts and, oh yeah, Sundance. Sure it would wreck havoc on revenues out of state skiers spend in the state each year, but there would still be Snow Basin and a few other resorts to take up the slack. Maybe we could get Kennecott to build a couple of resorts in the Oquirrh Moutains where things have been pretty much destroyed already. As for the resort owners, well guys like Bob could fill up his lodge and cabins with tourists who'd want to see the mountains as they should look, instead of scalped by the ski industry. By the way we would want to replant those slopes and in 100 years you will not be even able to tell the resorts were there. That would have to be paid for by those who reaped the profits from these resorts.
Of course there would have to be some road closures too. We would leave the principal travel routes such as Highway 6 and 189 through Provo Canyon open, but all side roads from them would have to be closed. We would have to close the roads up Mill Creek, Big Cottonwood, Little Cottonwood, and Hobble Creek Canyon. We could tear those out and create hiking trails and horse paths so people could get up the canyons. Of course there could be no mechanized travel on these reclaimed treks.
We would leave the Alpine and Nebo Loop roads open, but they could only be traversed by shuttle buses, and the number of people per day allowed would be limited to keep impact on the canyons down. In the winter, other than the major roads, all roads would be closed. No snowmobiles or vehicles of any kind would be allowed. Remember Yellowstone is the only national park where snowmobiles can be used, and many people want to see that eliminated, so consequently none could be used in our new park either. If people want to get to their houses in the canyons or Park City they can snowshoe or cross country ski in. During the summer they can ride horses.
All golf courses in the park would be closed and opened for animals to roam once again. That would mean all the Park City courses would be gone along with Wasatch Mountain State Park. Well, maybe we could hold onto one of them as a national park hysteric area; you know where people can go and take their frustrations out on a little white ball and then throw their clubs in one of the water hazards.
As for all the private property, we could impose eventual eminent domain. Once the property owner that has the deed to each piece now dies, the property would revert to the federal government with a very small fee paid to the heirs for their investment in the properties. Then we would tear down everything from the little shanty cabins in Vivian Park to the multimillion dollar homes in Deer Valley, and reclaim the area for nature, using the same techniques that have been forced on the evil coal industry when they reclaim mines. Within 50 years or so the feds would be able to tie up the whole thing and it could look nearly like it did when the Mormon pioneers came to town.
It will be a big fight to get this legislation passed. I thought about making it a wilderness proposal instead, but the area has been too damaged for it to be wilderness, even after rehab. People have lived in and by this land for generations. They have a deep investment in it and consider it their backyard (hey for some of the rich ones it is their backyard). But it will for the good of all and will give us something to pass on to future generations that is truly worthwhile.
I even think that I can get SUWA and the Sierra Club to jump on board, don't you. Afterall they're all for turning the clock back on nature. So what if many of their donors and financial supporters (and their major movie star spokesmans) property would be affected by this. This would be for the environment, for the preservation of nature. I'm sure they would agree.
As far as I am concerned what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
So let's become the goose on this one.