Taking Nine Mile Canyon to the next step
Last November 20 people who have a vested interest in the Nine Mile Canyon toured the roads that lead through the historic rock-art panels, viewed the gas wells and sub stations, and took in the vistas at the ranches there.
As a result of that gathering, a group was formed called the Nine Mile Executive Committee.
The committee selected as co-chairs for their group Steve Tanner and College of Eastern Utah President Ryan Thomas.
Following the tour each agency was asked to submit an action plan or informational update of their work or considerations they felt were important in the canyon.
These were collected and the first committee meeting was held this past week at CEU.
The meeting was led by Tanner and CEU administrator Cliff Coppersmith. Representatives from Carbon County, the college, the Bureau of Land Management, the Nine Mile Coalition, the CEU Museum, as well as private citizens were in attendance.
Controversy has plagued Nine Mile Canyon in the past year as gas developers stepped up their intentions to increase exploration and drilling in the area.
What has surfaced because of this are a lot of stakeholders concerned about the future of Nine Mile Canyon.
The original meeting, known as "Neighbors coming together," was organized by County Commissioner Steve Burge and tourism executive Kathy Hanna-Smith.
A lot is at stake in Nine Mile Canyon and because of these personal and agency concerns, emotions about the situation have been fairly close to the surface.
The first action plan was a vote to continue with a plan to move an existing road through Cottonwood Canyon at the location of one of the world's leading rock art displays.
The concept of moving the road was generated because of the desire to protect the art from the dust that comes from the vehicles passing by. At this time there is no signage, no parking and no vehicle turnaround spots.
The proposal, which is being designed by Dave Levanger, county planning and zoning director has two possibilities, one of which was an original design submitted by the Bill Barrett Corporation.
"That's a good proposal, but after some study we feel that there is a route the fits the design of the road and the route of the canyon a little better," said Levanger in a Friday interview. "It meets the states road specifications more closely."
The proposed road would be diverted from its current route near the canyon side to between the main wash and a secondary wash in the canyon.
"Because of those dual washes the road would have excellent drainage," stated the county official.
The group also discussed building protective barriers near the famous rock art panel, thus protecting it from vandals or people who would otherwise deface it.
Also constructed would be a parking area and some trails to hike to the panel from a couple of different directions.
Levanger estimated that the cost for the proposed rerouting would be in the neighborhood of $28,000 which would cover cost of the gravel, barriers, culverts and some signage.
With the panel ranked as one of the top 10 rock art panels in the world Levanger stated "...we need to get the road away from the panel."
The prospects for funding the project could come from a number of organizations including the State of Utah Institutional Trust Land Administration, and the Barrett Corporation.
Representatives from both organizations were part of the November tour and both indicated a willingness to get things moving in Nine Mile Canyon. Neither organization were part of this past Thursday's meeting.
In other business Pam Miller, administrator with the CEU Historical Museum and an active member of the Nine Mile Coalition explained the status of the interpretive plan to the group.
She distributed a draft of a proposal she created three years ago when she requested $64,000 from the Carbon County Restaurant Tax Board. Although the bid for that money was rejected the coalition found alternative funding and new signs were installed at two sites along the canyon.
One of the projects important for future of tourism in the canyon is the completion of a brochure, which is currently at the designer and will be printed in March.
The Nine Mile Coalition originally set up a plan to complete a number of items but due to budget restraints had to prioritize the projects.
Projects that are currently being considered or completed include two interpretive panels at the first site; a self-guiding brochure; four large interpretive panels for the picnic area at Cottonwood Glen; interpretive panels at Owl Panel, Rasmussen Cave and the Cottonwood Hunt scene; and an informational or directional information kiosk at Gate Canyon.
Miller was told by the Restaurant Tax Commission that in order to get funding the group had to produce hard numbers of current tourists and the potential of tourism traffic to the area, a complete marketing plan and how many dollars it will take to bring the project up to a level of effectiveness.
"It's a tall order," explained Miller. "It's also one that no other organization has had to do to prove themselves before they received funding."
Miller did say that the coalition is planning to complete the projects that were named and then regroup, possibly working with other groups, such as the Nine Mile Canyon group that met Thursday to take the additional information back to the Restaurant Tax board for future funding.
But, at the current time the coalition is only completing their current obligations.
Three members of the Bureau of Land Management attended the meeting. Patrick Gubbins, local Price field office manager was joined by Fred O'Ferrall and Wayne Ludington.
They told the group that they are in the final stages of an environmental impact document reviewing the Tavaputs Drilling Project.
They told the group that they are in the final stages of an environmental assessment documenting the impacts of the Stone Cabin Seismic Project.
The document is a report of the impacts of the project. It is their plan to have the document ready for the field manager's signature by April. The Tavaputs Drilling Project consists of a proposal from Barrett Corporation to drill 12 wells on federal land and 10 on state land south of Nine Mile Canyon.
This proposal will be analyzed in an environmental document and should be released for public review sometime in late spring.
O'Ferrall pointed out that he is having weekly conversations with Duane Zavadil, the director of environmental and safety with Barrett Corporation on the projects.