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Committee looks at plans for Great Hunt panel in Nine Mile Canyon

Sun Advocate publisher

Three weeks ago the Carbon County commission voted to award the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition $40,000 to start action on their interpretive plan, with a promise of more money to come in the future to finish out the approximately $140,000 project.

The money, from restaurant and room tax revenues, played a large role in the discussion of the Nine Mile Advisory Committee that met last Thursday at the College of Eastern Utah.

The group was formed a few months ago when the Bill Barrett Corporation, a natural gas exploration company, began soliciting community support as they expand their operations into the Nine Mile Canyon area. Several interested parties and agencies met last September to tour the canyon and see if tourism, historians, archaeologists, environmentalists, ranchers, gas developers, and government entities could work together in the canyon. Since that tour the executive committee has been meeting monthly.

At last weeks meeting several items were discussed as progress continues. The two largest projects include the road relocation at the "Great Hunt" rock art panel up Cottonwood Canyon and the implementation of the interpretive plans.

Dave Bell of the Utah State extension offices in Logan presented three designs for the Great Hunt site. Although all the plans are similar in nature, the parking areas varied somewhat in relationship to turnarounds and entrances.

The committee voted to recommend to the State Institutional Lands, who is in charge of the land where the panel is, a design that they determined would allow traffic to flow smoother than with the other plans.

Bell pointed out to the committee that within the scope of the project workers will be treating all vegetation with care and create as little impact on the trees and shrubs as possible.

Pam Miller, curator of the CEU Museum, outlined the plans for the signage in the canyon. This signage includes billboards, signs, pull offs and trail heads at three separate sites. These include the Daddy Canyon complex, the Fremont Village and the Big Buffalo. Various partnerships have been involved in the master plan, but before any signs can be installed the BLM will need to review the environmental impact statements.

A pictorial map of Scheme 3 that the Nine Mile Advisory Committee is urging SITLA to adopt as the model for road relocation at the Great Hunt Panel.

These documents have already been reviewed but will now be examined one more time before the committee proceeds with their plans.

The BLM is currently working on other projects in the canyon and have set a day in late September to kick off their work in conjunction with National Public Lands Day.

Wayne Ludington, who represented the BLM at the meeting said that it is in the best interest of the BLM to get the projects completed. He said he will work closely with his staff to get the proper documents done so the committee can proceed with the signage.

The group also discussed proceeding with the easements on the private land they need and if any signage or work could be completed sooner, so as not to hold up the project because of National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) regulations and requirements.

In another matter a committee that was formed to finalize a mission statement continues to work on that project. The statement will crystallize the goals of the group so they can head in specific directions.

There was also some discussion about the "critical paths" or directions that the committee must address. Some of the sites the group has committed to work on include signage at the head of the canyon, total canyon road design, further work on the interpretive plan, a recreational management plan, private landowner input and participation, a sign at Walker's service center spelling out directions to the canyon, a traffic monitoring plan, a canyon registration log, the design of future trails for hiking, horses, bicycles, motor bikes and four wheelers, future structures such as campgrounds, restrooms and security stations, restoration projects, heritage tourism and safety issues in the area.

An additional discussion was based on an idea to have the American Buffalo Soldiers produce a re-enactment in the canyon. During the 1800s Buffalo Soldiers were stationed at Fort Duchesne and were instrumental in putting up the telegraph line through the canyon. As part of the heritage tourism perspective a re-enactment could be included with a possible celebration upon completion of various aspects of the interpretive plan.

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