|Members of the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition Committee listen as one of the resident members speaks about the road situation in the canyon. Tourism officials say that many visitors go away disappointed because of dusty and noisy conditions in the canyon which take away from the experience.|
The Nine Mile Canyon Coalition met on Sept. 5 and the main topic of discussion was the road that runs through the "World's longest art gallery."
Present at the meeting were county representatives, including Sheriff James Cordova and road supervisor Ray Hanson, BLM officials, residents of the canyon, citizens with a general interest and tourism representatives from both Carbon and Duchesne County.
The issue was the condition of the road and what could be done about it. The crux of the matter was to figure out what direction to head to solve the dust and mud problem on the road.
"What I would like in the immediate future would be a gravel road that is graded," said Layne Miller. "We need to look at intermediate goals like what to do with culverts and whether magnesium chloride would be helpful."
Miller said he was opposed to paving the road because of the heavy use a paved road may bring.
Hanson said that the road would require a lot of money to bring up to any standard.
"We have spent nearly a million dollars on that road in the last ten years," he told the group. He went on to explain that the money that the county gets for B and C class roads can only be used in certain amounts each year when it is being spent in-house.
"Other wise we must contract out the work," he said. "It works out to about a $100,000 a year limit and we have stretched that a little."
Some in the group suggested that the $100,000 should be used toward permanent road changes rather than temporary measures such as grading. But Hanson pointed out that money goes not only for grading but for snow removal and other problems.
"If we spend that money on permanent improvements what will we use for what maintenance we can do on the rest of the road."
The group also discussed the problems that create a bad situation. There is not only industrial traffic that is supposed to be on the road, but it seems there are often trucks using it to avoid the port of entry stops the state has set up in the area.
"Home owners are our eyes and ears up there," Cordova told the group, referring directly to the residents of the canyon present. "When you see unlicensed vehicles, overweight loads, wide loads, call us. We will come. We are working with the Utah Highway Patrol to start setting up scales on this side of the canyon to catch some of this. But that also has to happen on the other side as well."
Carbon County Commissioner Bill Krompel also pointed out that random enforcement is sometimes better than regular enforcement.
It was brought up that with the sensitive nature of the road the damage large heavy loads are doing is more than just to the road base. Some damage to petroglyphs appears to be resulting from the dust that is churned up. In addition many tourists who come to the area are upset when they get there because the place is choked with either dust or is undrivable because of mud. All the property owners in the canyon have stories of people who have driven through it and then stopped and asked them where the rock art is. They often can't find it for the dust.
"Some day the mines in the area will be gone and all we will have is tourism," said Tanner to the group. "The governor needs to come down here and see how one of his famous back ways is being ruined because the state won't provide money to fix the road."
To pave the entire canyon would require culverts or spillways where water could run over the road. It would also require millions of dollars just to pave one lane through the 70 plus miles the road now travels.
While some in the meeting complained that the oil, gas and logging industry were to blame for at least some of the problem, more felt that they were more of an answer than a problem.
"I don't think there is any enemy here," said the tourism director from Duchesne County. "Industry is good and they can help. It is an opportunity. We shouldn't alienate anyone, but make partners instead."
Kathy Hanna, from Carbon County Tourism told the group that she thought maybe everyone has not been aggressive enough on working toward solving the problem.
While there was still a difference in opinion of what kind of surface should be placed on the road, the group did decide to work toward some priorities. Some believe pavement is the answer while others think paving the road could lead to trouble, such as too high of use and that it could become a "speedway" for travelers between Vernal and Grand Junction.
First of all the committee will start aggressively working toward funding options, such as grants and low interest loans.
Next they will decide, if paving is to be done and where it is needed first. Some believe the pavement should just be extended a little at a time from the mine area where it now ends. Others believe that it should begin in front of residences in the canyon and then move to other areas. One residence has pavement in front of it because it is on the other side of the Duchesne County line and that county did provide the pavement because of safety and health concerns.
Another thought was to increase signage in the canyon for safety reasons. Some of those attending pointed out how much signage has helped the situation on U.S. 6.
In the end Krompel told the group he would look into possible Community Impact Board grant money to conduct a study of the canyon and see what the options are. He and others at the meeting felt that if both Duchesne and Carbon Counties get behind such a request they could get the money to do such a study.
"I have found that when applying for grants it is much easier to get the money when counties are conjoined in a cause," stated Cordova.
The group will meet again in the near future to discuss other options and problems.