At what point in the development of a tourist-travel venue should county government become involved in creating facilities that could compete with private industry?
The matter was one of the questions that came before the Nine Mile advisory committee last week during a meeting at the College of Eastern Utah.
"I worry about, with some of what we are proposing, the competition the county might create with private enterprise in Nine Mile Canyon," observed Gayla Williams, Carbon deputy zoning administrator.
Williams made the comment during a discussion about 40 acres of county ground on the road that leads to the canyon. Some people at the meeting had suggested the county develop a campground there to entice people into the canyon.
"We bought the ranch in the canyon so we could build a campground there," said Myrna Mead. "We have been there for nine years now and I feel, if the county does decide to put a campground farther down the road, then our place won't be worth anything."
Mead and her husband, Ben, are trying to develop a resort in the canyon.
The advisory committee has no direct power to take official action. But the diversity of the membership, which includes private, government and preservation groups and enterprises, has an influence on what can happen in the canyon.
"We need to support the Meads in their business," said county tourism director Kathy Smith . "They have acted as our watch dogs in the canyon for a long time. If something like that were built, maybe they could manage it for us."
CEU president Ryan Thomas suggested that the Meads could act as a concessionaire at the proposed county campground, like the national park service does at locations across the nation.
"The problem with that is that the county ground is a long way from their present location," stated Williams. "My recommendation would be to find another use for that property that wouldn't compete with the Mead's business."
No conclusion came out of the discussion, but the comments demonstrated how a cause and effect circumstance could affect the activities in the Nine Mile Canyon.
The committee also discussed the recent road trip up the canyon that a large group of officials and private individuals made to assess existing road problems.
"It was great," noted Pam Miller, the archaeologist at the CEU Prehistoric Museum. "We were finally all together in the same place looking at the safety issues in the canyon. We were able to point out the dangerous places and to discuss what kinds of parking and pull offs were needed at various sites."
The United States Bureau of Land Management's established plan for the canyon calls for a continuous presence in the area which might help with some of the safety problems, added Miller. The practice would help control vandalism of rock art. But a continuous presence has still not been established in the canyon.
Thomas suggested, until that time can come, a volunteer presence may be helpful.
"Maybe there could be some cooperation between various groups," stated Thomas. "I am certainly not thinking about enforcement, but as an information source.
Any type of program would have to be formalized, noted Miller. And the future will bring bigger challenges, activities which would be beyond the scope of what volunteers should handle.
Corinne Springer, an archaeologist for the Utah institutional lands, pointed out that volunteers could get into dangerous situations with people who are a threat or armed.
"We just need some law enforcement there on a regular basis," said Springer. "With more on weekends and heavy use periods."
It was suggested that possibly the people that are already out there, such as industrial employees, could act as eyes and ears to monitor the situation. However part of the problem is that cell phones don't work in the canyon and the county only recently got permission to set up radio towers in the area so their road crews and the sheriffs department could communicate with Price. This puts a kink into reporting problems in the canyon.
In connection with this Miller said that there is presently a stewardship program going on where a group will be taking photos of panels and monitoring their condition over time.
Ben Mead said that he thought most people just needed information and that would cut down a lot of the problems, particularly with trespassing on private property in the area, which represents a good portion of the canyon bottom.
"A lot of people come out there and think they have reached the end of the canyon sites when they reach my place," he explained. "We need a good place to distribute information so they know what the parameters of the canyon are, where they can and can't go."
Ben Mead said there are a lot of people who get discouraged before they even enter the canyon when they take the wrong fork and turn up toward the Dugout mine. The visitors to the canyon then have to come back to the fork to follow the correct route.
Vandalism in the canyon was also a topic of discussion at the advisory committee meeting.
While Ben Mead felt that most of the vandalism to prehistoric sites is older damage, Springer pointed out that all the paint ball marks are a new occurrence.
The archaeologist for the Utah institutional lands also gave a verbal report to the committee on the status of the Cottonwood - renamed the Great Hunt Panel - site design.
"The architect went into the canyon earlier this week and he has suggested that we design the site like we are getting all the money we need to include everything we have been hoping for," said Springer. "He told me that if we have the total plan that will help with future development."
The area, when completed, will be much like the Buckhorn Wash panel site in the San Rafael Swell, noted the archaeologist for the Utah institutional lands.
In addition, the advisory committee discussed the pros and cons of dust suppression systems in the canyon. Concern was raised about using magnesium chloride on the roads because of the possible environmental effects the material may have in the future.
Bill Griffith, the representative on the committee from the Bill Barrett Corporation, indicated that point was well taken.
"Let's face it - we are, afterall, just visitors in the canyon," pointed out Griffith. "We all will be just another part of the history of that canyon at some point in the future."