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Front Page » April 25, 2006 » Local News » Agencies explain national historic designation process, a...
Published 3,451 days ago

Agencies explain national historic designation process, accept input at public Old Spanish Trail meeting

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Sun Advocate reporter

Aaron Mahr from the United States National Park Service addresses the people attending an Old Spanish Trail meeting at the John Wesley Powell River Museum in Green River on April 19.

In December 2002, the U.S. Congress decreed that the Old Spanish Trail be designated as a national historic trail.

As part of the federal scoping process, representatives from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the parks service met with local government leaders and interested citizens to explain the historic trails project and gather public input. The BLM will accept public comments on the federal government's historic trails management plan until May 17.

Representatives from the United States Bureau of Land Management and National Parks Service met with local government leaders and interested citizens April 19 in Green River to explain the historic trails project and gather public input.

In December 2002, the U.S. Congress decreed that the Old Spanish Trail be designated as a national historic trail.

To date 16 different trails at locations across the nation have been recognized by the U.S. Congress and awarded NHT status. The trails are considered to have special significance in the history of the country.

Congressional recognition affords special considerations for the Old Spanish Trail. A planning team representing the BLM and NPS was recently formed to gather information for a comprehensive management plan for the trail.

The two federal agencies will jointly plan and administer the trail project.

Part of the planning process is a series of 21 public meetings in six western sates bisected by the trail.

Three meetings were conducted in Utah, one in Moab, one in Green River and one in Cedar City.

NHT designation for the Old Spanish Trail could have far-reaching impacts for Carbon and Emery counties in the future, depending on how the management plan is developed and implemented.

Emery County will be most directly affected. The Old Spanish Trail made a wide arc across Emery County.

The Old Spanish Trail was active from about 1829 until shortly after the Mexican War of 1848.

The route originated in Santa Fe, N.M., and ended in Los Angeles, Calif.. It was a pack trail, traversed only by horses and mules. Spanish traders in Santa Fe formed annual caravans of merchants who traveled the trail together for mutual protection and support.

The trail crossed the Colorado River at Moab and the Green River north of the present town site. The route then crossed Buckhorn Flat to a point near Castle Dale. From Castle Dale, the trail followed the route of Utah Highway 10 to Ivie Creek, then went west over Salina Canyon.

Few physical traces of the trail remain today. The route can be determined only through historical records and journals kept by travelers. Modern roads cover the majority of the original trail.

At the scoping meeting in Green River last Wednesday, officials from the BLM and NPC gave a quick overview of the trail and then listed what were identified as five planning issues, concerns and opportunities. The list included:

�Defining the trail and its resources.

�Identifying opportunities for education, interpretation and recreation.

•Considering all cultures and ethnicities in telling the story of the trail.

Cultures and ethnicities include Hispanics, Indian Tribes and Anglo-Americans who used or were impacted by the trail.

�Identifying how protecting the trail will affect other land uses and how other land uses will affect the trail.

�Identifying economic opportunities related to recreational use of the trail.

After outlining the five points of consideration, the facilitators from the federal agencies asked for public comments regarding the matter.

Emery Commissioner Gary Kofford presented a letter that outlined the county's official position on the trail.

In the letter, the Emery commissioners expressed appreciation for the federal government's interest in the trail.

The commissioners pointed out that Emery County has made efforts since the 1950s to identify and interpret the trail.

The Emery County letter indicated that the outcome of the government scoping meetings should reflect the past efforts and concerns of the local communities, residents and governments.

In addition, the Emery County Commission stated that any national planning should be consistent with local plans, both concerning the trail and adjacent land regardless of ownership.

The Emery commissioners expressed concerns about land use policies mandated at the national or the regional level.

"What is determined to be in the best interest on the larger scale in the past, has had some very harsh impacts to local communities and land users.Ninety-two percent of Emery County is public land. Land use plans affect the very livelihood and economic well being of many residents, therefore we are greatly concerned with public land use planning in all forms," stated the letter.

The commissioners ended the letter by asking the federal agencies to include Emery County as a cooperating agency in the development of the Old Spanish Trail management plan.

There were about 50 people at the scoping meeting and the consensus of the general public appeared to be unanimous.

Several people expressed concerns that designating the trail for special consideration might limit access to it or through it.

Everyone who spoke asked that the trail be of little or no impact to existing uses and access to the public lands.

A question was asked about how wide the designated trail corridor might be through Emery County and if things like scenic vistas would be considered in the management plan.

The federal officials were uncertain.

"Are you planning to close the existing dirt road and open it only to backpackers?" asked one concerned resident in attendance at the public meeting.

"Are you going to close other roads so this road is less impacted?" asked another individual.

"We all saw what a mess the Burr Trail project turned out to be," stated Richard Beardall. "Are we going to suffer through something like that again?"

The U.S. government officials reminded local leaders and residents that planning process is still in the development stage and no decisions have been made yet.

Bill Howell, director of the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments, indicated that he was leery about the terminology used for the project.

Words mean things," commented the SEUAOLG director.

Howell pointed out that the project is being called a historic trail project and not a historic route project.

"A trail is an undeveloped track through the sand," said the association director. "I don't like the sound of it."

Howell also asked what the management plan would be managing.

He pointed out that none of the federal government's information is clear on that matter.

"Do you intend to manage the trail, the corridor, the resources or what?" asked the SEUAOLG director.

Howell said the federal government should decide the issue before proceeding with the management plan.

Kofford stated that Emery County is prepared to fight if the management plan promises to impact local energy development in a negative way.

The Emery commissioner expressed concern about the U.S. government placing restrictions on the use of public lands.

"We already have many duplications and multiple layers of overlapping regulations imposed on us by various government agencies," pointed out Kofford. "We don't need anymore."

The U.S. government agents facilitating the meeting indicated that the plans are still in the development stage and no final determinations have been made.

The Old Spanish Trail covers 2,700 miles from New Mexico to California.

According to the NPS officials, ownership of the land the trail traverses is almost equally divided into three categories.

One-third of the land falls into private hands, one-third is located on public lands government by the BLM and one-third belongs to the U.S. National Forest Service.

BLM official Sarah Schlanger responded to Kofford's concern that local management plans might be ignored by the federal agencies.

"This trail passes through 32 local management plans in six states and we now know that we can't write a plan to serve everyone," explained Schlanger.

The BLM official indicated that she expected the final plan to be very general in nature.

The timetable for the Old Spanish Trail management planning process includes:

�January to May 2006 - announcing planning efforts and conducting public meetings.

�Summer 2006- developing a preliminary range of alternatives.

�Fall, winter and spring 2006 to 2007 - preparing draft plan/environmental impact statement/ internal agency review.

�Fall and winter 2007 to 2008 - public review of draft/environmental document and analysis of public comments.

�Spring and summer 2008 - preparing final document for department decision.

�September 2008 - releasing the record of decision to the public.

Government officials will accept public comments about the trail plan until May 17. Interested Carbon County residents may phone, fax or email comments. Written comments should be addressed to Sarah H. Schlager, New Mexico BLM, PO Box 27115, Santa Fe, NM 87502.

The telephone number is 505-438-7454. The fax number is 505-438-7426. The email address is

The Old Spanish Trail Association will meet in Green River on June 9, 10 and 11 at the John Wesley Powell Museum.

The theme for the national organization's event is "Scoping and Interpreting the Old Spanish Trail."

The sessions are open to the public and more than 200 reservations have already been made to attend.

The event will feature an evening reception Friday, followed by a symposium with discussions, guest speakers and short field trips on Saturday.

On Sunday, the association will sponsor a field trip from Green River to Castle Dale, following the Old Spanish Trail route.

The tour will end at the Museum of the San Rafael in Castle Dale.

For information about the symposium, Carbon County residents may contact the John Wesley Powell River Museum in Green River.

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