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Front Page » November 10, 2005 » Local News » Lost canyon documentary premiers Nov. 8 at screening sess...
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Lost canyon documentary premiers Nov. 8 at screening session in Price

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Sun Advocate general manager

Elaine Storrs is shown some artifacts from Range Creek Canyon during the reception prior to the primier of the new documentary called 'Secrets of the Lost Canyon' produced by KUED from the University of Utah.

The story of the cultural and natural treasures in Range Creek 50 miles southeast of Price has been more than 1,000 years in the making.

But in KUED television's new hour long documentary, the problems associated with the political atmosphere surrounding the land making up the area indicate the canyon's treasures could be lost if a balance is not struck.

On Tuesday, about 200 people attended the premier of "Secrets of the Lost Canyon" at College of Eastern Utah's student center and Geary Theater.

The attendees learned that not all the secrets in Range Creek are ancient.

Some have to do with the problems modern life may impose upon a land that has remained basically the same since the Fremont Indians abandoned the area 800 years ago.

"We are here to get your reactions to this documentary," said Ken Verdoia, who along with Nancy Green produced the piece. "We know that the people who live close to this are special people. We know that what you have to say really counts. That's why we want to know how you feel about it."

The documentary, which will premier Nov. 21 at 8 p.m. on KUED television will eventually be shown on public television stations across the United States.

People throughout the world heard about Range Creek through the media blitz that resulted when the sale of the land by Waldo Wilcox to the state of Utah was officially announced in 2004.

News representatives from throughout the world traveled to the area and many were disappointed because Range Creek wasn't a Mesa Verde or a Chaco Canyon. But the film portrays the exploration of the rich cultural resources and treasures in Range Creek.

The crowd at the Nov. 8 premier consisted primarily of local residents, many of whom have been connected in various ways to the archeology and natural history of the area for years. Before the premier there was a dinner with a show of some artifacts from the canyon, many of which had not been seen by locals before.

The documentary itself portrayed the distant past by using many of artist Joe Venus' paintings. But the more recent past is what the film really concentrates on, and what could come to be in the canyon. The fifties and sixties, when the Wilcox family and their kids grew up in the canyon is caught by old home movies that have a wonderful quality of show what life was like on a remote ranch in those days. It also showed a number of the sites that today still lay in the same state of preservation that they were then.

"It thought the documentary was well done," said Clark Warren of Carbonville. "But one of the things I wish they had gone into more was the past history of that ranch and who protected those sites before the Wilcox's. It appeared from the documentary that it just started in the 1950's, but someone before them had to have protected that canyon since the area was settled over a hundred years ago."

The documentary takes into account all the pressures that are coming to bear on the use of the canyon. Right now archaeologists are just barely surveying the estimated 2000 cultural sites in the canyon. But in addition the Division of Wildlife Resources is also making it's plans for the canyon. That is because the area was purchased to be public land, and used largely for wildlife.

The DWR is also the ones who have to protect the canyon and its resources, a fact portrayed well in the film. Doing that, is not only time consuming but also expensive. The fact it is public land brings up the problems of how cultural resources should be protected, particularly in an environment where the black market for Fremont artifacts is ever more attractive to pot hunters. At present the canyons relative remoteness, a gate across the road to a place that has only one way in and the fact that even foot traffic in the canyon is being regulated is protecting it. But that probably won't last forever as multiple use of public land begins forge its way into the area. And some feel the protection of the canyon isn't what it could be.

"I thought the documentary was great," says Joan Taylor, a local activist for protecting cultural resources. "But I think the state has been somewhat short sited in how to protect what is there. When this is shown there will be a stampede of people that want to go there. To protect that canyon there are plenty of local activists that could be used to patrol it and protect it, but the state just doesn't seem interested."

Derris Jones, from DWR did point out that the public as a whole does have an obligation to help out and point out problems concerning looting and vandalism in the canyon to authorities.

The documentary also brought up the fact that when the state bought the land, they did not buy the mineral rights, but only the surface rights. In two areas of the canyon mineral rights were sold years ago to an energy company, but the rest is still owned by Wilcox, and who continues to hold them to this day.

Another area the documentary explored was that of Native American rights. Native American groups said the were not consulted at all when the deal for the land was made, nor when it was discovered that vast unspoiled remains from a peoples past had been found there. Many of that groups officials and experts feel that the canyon may be sacred to their people. One suggested in the documentary that the graineries in the cliffs may have been spiritual offerings rather than a way to protect food supplies.

"That was something I had never thought of," said Richard Tatton of Price. "I thought the documentary was good, but there were things in it that I thought did not relate to the canyon as much as I would have liked. I would have liked to see more of the canyon. I know however that this film perked my interest in that area."

After the premier there was a discussion panel with many officials that work in and control the canyon present. The audience as a whole was fairly positive about the documentary as was shown by the loud applause after it ran, but brought many concerns to those officials concerning access, preservation of the old ranch along with other historical sites and of course concerns about the future of the canyon.

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