Plush Kokopelli - The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth
In September 2007, for the first time, Spokesmodel Carrie McCoy and I visited Moab, Utah together. While flying back to Casa Carrie in Simi Valley, California, Carrie stopped at Phoenix International Airport. There, in a cavernous airline terminal she saw a retail cart that was selling Arizona souvenirs. Among the various items there, she found a multicolored beanbag toy small enough to fit into her carry-on luggage.
A week later, when I arrived home, Carrie presented “Plush Kokopelli” to me, as a gift. From that moment on, nothing was the same. Standing only twelve inches tall, in his plush stocking feet, I never expected that little character to change my life, but he has.
Later in our mutual story, Plush Kokopelli would meet Coney the Traffic Cone, Moabbey the Coyote and Silver Girl. Together they would form a band of superheroes that would change history, as we know it. Perhaps they only changed history as I know it, but that is good enough for me. Later, Plush Kokopelli and Coney would found their own credit union, in Moab, Utah
As a character in my online novel, “Walking through Time”, Plush Kokopelli has enjoyed many adventures. First, he met Coney and Moabbey, but soon thereafter, he and his friends welcomed Silver Girl to their troupe. Before they set out on their quest, Plush Kokopelli and the other superheroes first went on vacation to the Cozy Cone Motel in Holbrook, Arizona. Soon, they were to take the High Southwest and even the Low Southwest (Arizona) by storm. Righting wrongs and protecting the desert environment, the superheroes began their long and winding road to recognition and respectability.
Before they knew it, the superheroes were involved in an international art mystery, seeking the identity of the mid-twentieth century artist, C.Proietto. With aplomb, Plush Kokopelli, Silver Girl and Coney solved the art mystery. During a European tour, they discovered that the artist was none other than Costantino Proietto (1910 – 1979). Originally, from Randazzo, Sicily, Tino Proietto became the “Master of Impasto” and later lived as artist in residence in Stuttgart, Germany.
In 2012, then Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona arrested Plush Kokopelli on suspicion of being an illegal alien. Incarcerated in Maricopa County Jail, Sheriff Joe personally dressed Plush Kokopelli in pink jail clothing. With his multicolored coat hidden beneath the pink jail garb, Plush Kokopelli lost all of his magical powers. Soon, it was the shy and retiring Coney the Traffic Cone’s turn to save the day and to save Plush Kokopelli too.
After Coney freed Plush Kokopelli from jail in Phoenix, Arizona, the little flute playing character hopped a jet to Moab, Utah. There, he was seen around town and was photographed on the wing of the jet airplane on which he had arrived. Neither Sheriff Joe nor Governor Jan Brewer had the power to extradite the multidimensional, fugitive plush-toy back to Arizona.
Once free from incarceration, Plush Kokopelli headed directly to Burning Man at Black Rock, in the Nevada desert. There, he communed with a giant Kokopelli, which was soon to burn during the 2012 festival. By then, Plush Kokopelli was gaining traction in various social circles. Just before the company went bankrupt, Hostess Twinkies offered Plush Kokopelli a spokesmodel gig. Soon after making his first TV commercial for Twinkies, Hostess ceased doing business and stiffed him on his royalty check.
Undeterred, Plush Kokopelli went to the Atlantis Casino in Reno, Nevada and won big on the slot machines and at the blackjack tables. Not that he needed the money; but his winnings meant that Plush Kokopelli instantly became the ninth richest plush toy in the world. Still, he knew that there was more to his fifth dimensional life than money alone.
Although he is mute, Plush Kokopelli has an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time. Recently, when the Colorado River ran dry, he was there with the other superheroes to help orchestrate a spectacular, yet environmentally sensitive demise for the coal-fired power plant known as the Navajo Generating Station. In the end, the destruction at Navajo was just part of a movie script. Still, Plush Kokopelli played a pivotal role in getting that script pitched to the executives at Atlantis Pictures in Hollywood, California.
When Atlantis Pictures refused to green light the superheroes’ disaster movie script, Plush Kokopelli and the other superheroes turned their attention to another mystery. This time it was the “Great Burro Crane Mystery”. In 2014, the Moab Burro disappeared from Seven Mile, near Moab, Utah. Fearing that nuclear waste from the Train of Pain had contaminated the Moab Burro, Coney the Traffic Cone and Plush Kokopelli set out to find and save the errant Burro Crane. To read the full story, please go to MoabBurro.com.
Since Plush Kokopelli operates in five dimensions, rather than our mundane three-dimensional time-space reality (3DTSR), it is easy for him to play inter-dimensional tricks on those around him. One day, Plush Kokopelli spontaneously grew to twenty-six inches tall and reproduced his body twenty times. All of this, he did in secret at Denny’s Wigwam & Trading Post in Kanab, Utah. In the spring of 2015, when I visited the trading post, Plush Kokopelli was planning a quantum leap in energy. At the time, he planned to multiply himself like a plague of locust in the Great American Desert.
Luckily, Plush Kokopelli was only able to multiply himself twenty times before I found him at the trading post. I then purchased all twenty 26” RGU Group “Zoona” Plush Kokopelli still in original condition. Showing great attention to detail, Plush Kokopelli had even produced his original descriptive tags, which remain intact. Only these twenty remaining original 26” Plush Kokopelli feature authentic, multicolored (rainbow?) plush coats.
Now, upon his unspoken request, Plush Kokopelli would like the last twenty of his reincarnated selves to go to good homes… and at a good price. Plush Kokopelli is now available at MoabJim.com for only $99.00, plus shipping & handling. But wait, if you buy two 26” original RGU Group Plush Kokopelli, they are only $79.00 each. Just pay separate shipping and handling.
Plush Kokopelli as about the size of a small dog or a two-year-old child. He never barks, bites, cries or wets himself. In fact, he is mute. As such, Plush Kokopelli makes a perfect traveling companion. His beanbag bottom helps him sit up straight on an automobile seat.
If you search long enough, you may find a 12”, 16” or even a tired old 26” RGU Group Plush Kokopelli on eBay or some other auction website. Only when purchasing from MoabJim.com will you receive new, never-been-hugged, 26” Plush Kokopelli bean bag soft toys. With his tie-dyed, multicolored (rainbow?) plush fabric discontinued and out of production, when this final batch of Plush Kokopelli are gone, there will be no more.
Picture yourself meeting Plush Kokopelli at the Visitors Center at Arches National Park. That could be the thrill of a lifetime. Maybe you and Plush Kokopelli could drive along the highways and the byways of the High Southwest. Lean back, slow down and enjoy the scenery while Plush Kokopelli "rides shotgun" in your car or truck. He is a great photographic model and is now famous among the cognoscenti. If you want to commune with among the last of the original Plush Kokopelli, now is the time to act.
at 12:17 AM |
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With Its Fleet of Obsolete Bi-Level Bombardier Coaches, Metrolink Continues to Ignore Passenger Safety
On February 24, 2015, Metrolink Train No. 102 collided with and abandoned work truck and trailer at a grade crossing in Oxnard, California. Over the years, there had been multiple train collisions and many fatalities at the Rice Ave. and Fifth Street crossing. News reports at the time indicated that there were fifty people on that train. Of those aboard, twenty-eight sustained injuries, including four transported from the scene in critical condition. One of the walking wounded exited the toppled second coach under his own power, only later to discover that he had a broken neck.
Another critically injured passenger, Mr. Marc Gerstel, was a regular rider on the early Metrolink train from the Oxnard Station to Union Station in Los Angeles. An adjunct professor of dental technology, Gerstel would ride Metrolink and then catch the Red Line to Los Angeles City College. On a normal day, Gerstel could depart Oxnard at 5:39 AM, arriving in Los Angeles at 7:14 AM. Absent any traffic, a similar trip by automobile would take about the same amount of time. If attempted during morning commute time, the automobile trip might take twice as long. Only Metrolink’s speedy train service allowed Gerstel to live in Ventura County and work near Downtown Los Angeles.
In 2005, Metrolink admitted that fixed worktables in its Bombardier bi-level coaches had added to injuries in a Glendale Metrolink collision earlier that year. Although the 2005 Glendale collision resulted in eleven deaths, no one except Metrolink knows how many of those fatalities resulted from human impact with fixed worktables. In 2005, Metrolink also knew that the Bombardier bi-level coaches were prone to decoupling in a collision. In a derailment, the uncoupling of coaches can exacerbate the effects of a collision, allowing coaches to both whip around and to topple over.
In 2008, a Metrolink train collided head-on with a Union Pacific Freight train in Chatsworth, California. With twenty-five deaths, the Chatsworth collision became the deadliest in Metrolink history. Led by a diesel engine, all three of the coaches in that train were of bi-level design, manufactured by Bombardier. The collision was so violent that the Metrolink diesel engine telescoped rearward into the first coach, tearing it open and igniting a fire. At Chatsworth, the third and fourth Bombardier bi-level coaches remained upright and on the rails. Luckily, for the passengers in those two coaches, the collision happened on a curve, thus sending both engines and the first coach to the outside of the curve.
News reports at the time indicated that at least one fatality resulted from human impact with a fixed worktable. In that case, first responders discovered that the worktable nearly severed the victim’s body upon impact. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Final Accident Report stated, "The tabletops are trapezoidal in shape, approximately of uniform size and manufactured of a high-pressure laminate without any form of safety padding". Although damage to the first coach was catastrophic, "the second passenger coach from the locomotive did not sustain severe structural damage". Although the NTSB report does not state a reason for the single fatality experienced in that coach, the "dislodged or separated work-station tables" were the likely cause. If not a human body being thrust against it, what else would dislodge a worktable in an otherwise lightly damaged coach?
On Page 62 of the same Final Accident Report, NTSB sidles up to the extant dangers associated with the worktables installed in all Metrolink Bombardier bi-level coaches. The report states, "As configured, these one-piece tabletops are at abdomen height for a passenger seated at the table, thus placing that person at risk of sustaining serious abdominal injury in the event... of a collision impact. As a result of its investigation of the 2002 collision of a Metrolink commuter train... in Placentia, California, the NTSB determined that two Metrolink passengers had been fatally injured as a result of abdominal injuries resulting from impact with a workstation table". The Final Report indicated that "Existing Metrolink coaches will also be retrofitted with (crash energy management) features". To date, however, Metrolink has not retrofitted the worktables on any of its Bombardier bi-level coaches still in service. In plain English, for at least twelve years prior to the February 24, 2015 Rice Ave. collision, Metrolink knew that its Bombardier bi-level coaches contained killer tables, yet did absolutely nothing to curtail their use or to remove them from service.
With ridership plummeting and an unenviable safety record, Metrolink moved forward to spend a reported $263 million on new Hyundai Rotem rolling stock. With enhanced Crash Energy Management (CEM) and “frangible worktables”, the Metrolink purchase included fifty-seven new cabcars and sixty bi-level coaches. Later in 2010, Metrolink purchased twenty more Hyundai Rotem bi-level coaches of similar design. By June 2013, Metrolink claimed to have "replaced almost all of its aging rail cars".
In 2012, Metrolink published its five-year “Metrolink Fleet Plan”. Buried under the section titled “Current Metrolink Inventory”, the document discusses “Metrolink’s established benchmark in safety, upgrades and passenger comfort”. Using language so dense that I had to read it several times, Metrolink indicated that ongoing fleet replacement plans preclude upgrading the older Bombardier bi-level coaches. They cite “Guardian (Hyundai Rotem) layout and table type for CEM benefits versus retrofitting Sentinel (Bombardier) with energy absorbing tables”. In plain English, that means that Metrolink will continue to utilize obsolete Bombardier bi-level coaches with killer worktables until their eventual replacement with new Hyundai Rotem coaches. Since there is no currently published plan for Metrolink to purchase additional Hyundai Rotem "Guardian" coaches, the obsolete Bombardier bi-level coaches will continue to roll for many years to come.
As stated in Metrolink’s own 2012 Metrolink Fleet Plan, coaches that have traveled over one million miles should be retired. Still, as of 2012, Metrolink was operating sixty Bombardier “trailer cars” and twenty-eight “cab cars” which averaged 1.3 million miles of service. At that time, another twenty-three Bombardier cabcars and coaches averaged 950,000 miles. By 2016, almost every Bombardier cab and coach in the Metrolink fleet will be functionally obsolete. When you consider Metrolink’s refusal to retrofit existing Bombardier bi-level coaches with safer worktables, Metrolink’s own “benchmark in safety” sounds more like “gross negligence” to me.
Under normal circumstances, Marc Gerstel rode in the third or fourth coach, facing toward the rear. Typically, the third and fourth coaches in Train No. 102 were of the newer type, manufactured by Hyundai Rotem. After a collision, the design of the Hyundai Rotem coupling systems should keep all coaches connected and heading in the same direction of travel. That morning, Gerstel needed to make a quick transfer to the Red Line at Union Station. Therefore, Gerstel rode facing forward on the Metrolink train, sitting at a worktable in the second coach, which was an obsolete Bombardier bi-level model.
Before sunrise on February 24, 2015, Metrolink Train No. 102 traveled across the Oxnard plain. According to the NTSB Preliminary Accident Report, it approached the Rice Ave. grade crossing at fifty-six miles per hour. Upon seeing the work truck and trailer disabled and lodged on the railroad tracks, a student engineer at the controls of the Hyundai Rotem cabcar engaged the emergency brakes and sounded the horn.
Seated at a worktable on the right-hand side, upper level of the Bombardier bi-level coach, Gerstel heard the brakes engage. Seconds later, Gerstel felt and heard the impact of the cabcar with the work truck. Immediately, his laptop computer flew forward across the worktable. Instinctively, Gerstel reached in vain for his laptop. As his coach passed the collision site in the darkness, Gerstel saw a fireball outside the window. Hearing steel wheels riding across the concrete grade crossing, Gerstel knew that his coach was off the rails.
Although it decelerated rapidly from fifty-six miles per hour to a whipping and rotating halt, the size of the Bombardier bi-level coach created a slow-motion effect. Another passenger rode through the collision while clutching one of the vertical stanchion poles inside Gerstel’s coach. Weeks later, he described to Gerstel what he had observed. He said that all of the passengers appeared to fly vertically out of their seats. In this case, vertical was only in reference to the inside of the coach. In reality, the Bombardier bi-level coach had decoupled at both ends. As the cabcar whipped to the left, the rear end of the coach whipped forward and to the right, while simultaneously toppling on its side.
During his recuperation, Gerstel has pieced together his own personal chain of events. In May 2015, he told me, “As I reached forward to grab my laptop, I was pulled sideways out of my seat, in a backward motion. I went airborne and struck what I assume was the worktable across the aisle. When the train slammed down on its side I sustained serious injuries. I believe that I hit my original worktable and/or another object. My neck was severely fractured and my back vertebrae shattered. At impact, I blacked out... so I cannot attest to how many times I hit any of the worktables. I also had a head injury, so I must have tumbled like tennis shoes in a dryer”.
In the newer Hyundai Rotem coaches, the edges of the worktables are five or six inches thick. During impact, their design allows them to break away from their moorings, thus cushioning the blow to any human body that may impinge upon them. In the older Bombardier bi-level coaches, the tops of the worktables are of "high pressure laminate" design. Designed in the 1970s, the worktables look like a fortified version of a kitchen table from that era. The worktables feature a single support column that is through-bolted to a plywood sub-floor. The opposite end of each tabletop is firmly attached to the interior wall of the coach. Unintentionally, Bombardier worktables will sacrifice a human body before they will accept the dishevelment of a coach.
Although his mobile telephone was permanently deformed during impact with various immovable objects in the Bombardier bi-level coach, it still functioned after the crash. With its new and interesting shape, one wonders what objects it hit as it cushioned its wearer, Mr. Marc Gerstel. Did his mobile telephone "absorb the bullet" that might otherwise have taken his life? Weeks later, during Gerstel’s long and arduous recovery, his supervisor and mentor at Los Angeles City College visited him in the hospital. After the dismembered train came to a thunderous halt, Gerstel lay crumpled, broken and unconscious. There, in an overturned, obsolete rail car filled with hazardous worktables, he awoke. Regaining consciousness just long enough to voice-text his boss, “Train wreck. Cancel class.” was all that he said.
Having embarked from Oxnard on Metrolink Train No. 102 many times before, Gerstel had observed Senior Engineer, Glenn Steele, but only from afar. With his forty-two years experience and number-one ranking on the Metrolink seniority list, Steele had his pick of any assignment within the Metrolink system. Always up for a challenge, he often chose the Ventura County Line to polish his skills. In deference to Steele's privacy and the gravity of his task, Gerstel had never approached nor spoken to Steele.
After the accident, paramedics transported both Gerstel and Steele to the intensive care unit at Ventura County Medical Center (VCMC). For the next several days, lying injured and awake in his ICU bed at night, Gerstel often heard medical professionals attending to Steele. More than once, caregivers attending to Steele encouraged him to breathe. Twice during his stay at VCMC, Steele's heart had stopped. Four or five days after the collision, Steele was transferred to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for specialized care.
A few hours short of one week after the collision, Senior Metrolink Engineer, Mr. Glenn Steele succumbed to his injuries. According to Darren Kettle, executive director of the Ventura County Transportation Commission, instead of running to the back of the train to save himself, Steele stayed in front and apparently laid on the brakes much longer to try to protect the fifty passengers on board. As the Ventura County Star newspaper reported that day, “Four were critically injured, including Steele. Of the other three, only one remained hospitalized Tuesday, in stable condition at Ventura County Medical Center”. With a broken neck and shattered spine, that remaining patient was husband, father, teacher and friend, Mr. Marc Gerstel.
at 11:41 PM |
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Moab's "Empty Garden"
- I found an empty garden among the flagstones there
- Who lived here
- He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
- Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
- And now it all looks strange
- It's funny how one insect can damage so much grain
(A song by Elton John)
In March 2012, Grand County, Utah received funding from the National Park Service "Connect Trails to Parks" program for projects to enhance the Moab Lions Park Transit and Trail Hub. Over the previous four years, individuals from Grand County, Moab City, NPS, BLM, the Lions Club, Trail Mix, and the Moab Trails Alliance had collaborated to develop Lions Park as a trail and transportation hub. The various groups worked with a consultant hired using the NPS grant monies. The ground breaking for the Transit Hub was in September 2012. As planned, the hub would include interpretive and trail signs, all to be installed during 2014.
Starting with new energy applied by the Moab Lions Club in the 1970s and 1980s, public, private and nonprofit agencies and individuals poured countless hours into planning “Lions Park: Gateway to Moab”. By April 2015, the new Lions Transit Hub was in operation just across State Route 128 from the old Lions Club Park. Decades of planning and construction around the old park were almost complete. Careful redevelopment of the quaint but aging Moab Lions Park was all that remained undone.
Unfortunately, a successful outcome for Lions Park was not to be. Before lunchtime on March 31, 2015, an ill informed demolition crew erased one hundred sixty years of history at the birthplace of Moab, Utah. Working from faulty plans, uninformed contractors used mechanized equipment to bulldoze every visible remnant of what once was Lions Park.
Gone from the site were the stately Fremont Cottonwood trees whose ancestors once shaded the 1855 Elk Mountain Mission, and later shaded twentieth century picnickers. Gone were the familiar parking lot, walkways, picnic areas and water fountains. Gone was any trace of Moab Lions Club work performed over most of the late twentieth century. Gone from the southern terminus of State Route 128 were the classic wooden highway signs that once pointed the way to Arches National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park.
“Even after all that effort, it just went amok,” Community Development Director Dave Olsen said. According to Olsen's estimates, some of the eight trees were 80 to 100 years old, and perhaps even older. It is possible that several of those eight trees shaded the 1855 Elk Mountain Mission during their first days in Moab.
The Utah Division of Facilities Construction and Management, The Archiplex Group and Advance Solutions Group accepted responsibility for the mistake and plan to make up for it, Utah Department of Administrative Services Public Information Officer Marilee Richins said. “Everybody is joining together,” she said. “We just want to make it right. It's just an unfortunate situation.”
Acting Moab City Engineer Eric Johanson said, “We don't want to be blamed unjustifiably.”
Both Olsen and Johanson said that the demolition plans were missing a “tree-protection layer”. “We were shocked, because for years, we've been meeting with the architects and engineers”, Johanson said. “Everyone is very aggrieved,” he added. “It saddens everyone.”
“Ultimately, we thought that given the complexity, it should have at least elicited a phone call to the architect or the city before they started cutting everything down,” Johanson said. “It is a park, after all.”
“The damage was done before we could stop it,” said Olsen, who also serves as the city's arborist.
Almost immediately, Olsen switched gears and denigrated the recently removed trees. “Although stately Fremont cottonwoods are native to Utah and much of the West,” Olsen said, “they aren't the best choice for the site. To me, Fremonts are rickety". Their loose limbs also pose potential hazards in recreational park settings, he said; especially if they are situated above benches, picnic tables, playground areas and other “targets.”
Did arborist Olsen ever consider providing drip irrigation, pest control or tree pruning at Lions Park? The United States Congress established Zion as a National Park in Utah on November 19, 1919. Many Fremont Cottonwoods standing throughout Zion Canyon predate the 1925 establishment of Zion National Park Lodge. In Abraham Lincoln's parlance, that would have been "four score and ten years ago".
After inspecting the collection of dehydrating cottonwood stumps, Olsen continued his assault on the concept of replanting native trees at Lions Park. Almost immediately, Olsen found signs of decay, including hollowed-out trunks. “They have a substantial amount of rot,” he said. “Termites and carpenter ants have been doing their job to decompose them over time.”
Drought and neglect had taken their toll as well, yet the majestic Fremont Cottonwoods shook off decay, hosting carpenter ants and termites in a symbiotic relationship that lasted more than four score and seven years.
Turning the whole episode into a lesson in public safety, Olsen told the press that it would have been just a matter of time before he made a recommendation to remove the trees. Then, resorting to bureaucratic “double speak”, Olsen said that he would not have given permission to remove the trees now, within three months of the park's grand reopening.
Despite the danger that the old Fremont Cottonwood trees might pose to the public, Olsen would allow park visitors to picnic beneath them for an indefinite time into the future. As Moab's arborist, it was Olsen's duty to inspect and determine any future risk that the existing trees might represent. Only in post mortem did he fulfill that task.
Continuing with his anti-native tree theme, Olsen said that he would like to replant the new Lions Park with a combination of Bur oaks and Austrian pines. At the park, which by then looked like an extension of the nearby Moab Pile, Olsen said, “We wanted to make sure that it looked like a park, and not a barren desert".
“When we have our grand opening, we're probably going to roast in the sun like bacon,” Olsen remarked.
Once upon a time, people thought that Tamarisk (salt cedar) trees would make a nice frontage to the Colorado River in Moab. For the past twenty-five years,
volunteers and government organizations have struggled to eliminate that ubiquitous and invasive tree species. Before any Lions Park taskforce approves replanting with non-native species, I hope that the powers that be in Moab will pause long enough to complete their due diligence.
I pose the question, "What is the potential for Bur Oaks and Austrian Pines to become invasive species downstream, along the Colorado River? In the future, will Bur Oaks propagate and dominate the tree hierarchy in the soon to be re-exposed Glen Canyon?
Replanting Lions Park with Fremont Cottonwood trees and then nurturing them in perpetuity is the right thing to do. By replanting with Fremont Cottonwood trees, future generations will have the benefit of watching Lions Park once again become what it once was. In the year 2102, four score and seven years hence, Lions Park may well be back to where it was before its 2015 destruction. I am sorry to say that unless I live to be 154 years old, I will not be present there in person to celebrate. I will, however, be there in spirit.
In 2008, when the new Riverway Bridge opened nearby, I visited Lions Park and photographed a few historical features around the site. Most interesting to me was a masonry and wooden sign that faced out toward the intersection of U.S. Highway 191 and State Route 128. Lovingly hewn from Navajo Sandstone, its masonry structure was built to last for eons. Against its dark brown background, the word “MOAB” stood out proudly in white block letters. Below, the fading text told the story of Moab, from prehistory right up to the 1980s. This original Moab sign's first internet appearance was on MoabJim.com, as a photographic print for sale. Later, I included the Moab sign in one of my blog articles.
Each year, from 2008 to 2015, I revisited the site and photographed what I dubbed the “MOAB Sign”. As with most signs that face south in the desert, the white lettering weathered and flaked off a bit more each year. Behind the sign, trucks, trailers, paving equipment and cranes that serviced bridge, road and facilities construction came and went. Since 2008, there had been nonstop construction within a quarter mile of the MOAB Sign. By 2011, the historical text on the MOAB Sign was flaking away. So too was the physical history of the old Lions Club Park. In late 2014, the flaking word “MOAB” still clung to the upper face of the sign.
While on a photographic mission to Lions Park in August 2013, I discovered that something was missing from the area. As it turned out, all of the historical highway signs that once stood at the corner of State Route 128 and U.S. Highway 191 North were gone. Searching around the construction area, I found some grim remains.
With complete disregard for Moab history, all of the old highway directional signs had been ripped out of the ground and dropped like so much scrap metal and plywood. As a preview of what might someday happen, that scrap pile was partially hidden behind the original “MOAB Sign”. Perhaps the myriad consulting companies involved at Lions Park should have provided a "Sign Protection Layer" on their plans.
In April 2015, I visited the Lions Park and Transit Hub. Construction equipment and supplies still covered the historical birthplace of Moab. The equipment blocked my view of the old park, which was at a lower elevation, near the riverbank. Not until I read later news reports did I realize that Lions Club Park was already gone.
To have bulldozed and scraped away every concrete block and tree from the old park was not enough. As their last act of publically sanctioned vandalism, the destroyers of old Lions Club Park surreptitiously toppled and removed the original “MOAB Sign”.
As the old monument crumbled to the ground, Moab closed one hundred sixty years of current-era history at the "Jumping off Place". To future visitors of the Moab Transit Hub, interpretive signs and faded photos will be their only link to a shady oasis that once flourished in Moab, by the bank of the Colorado River.
As of this writing, Google Street View still shows a 2012 view of the intersection at State Route 128 and U.S. Highway 191 North. If you look closely at the linked image, you will see the original MOAB Sign. In the future, a Google camera-car will autonomously drive through that intersection, uploading digital images as it goes.
Someday, Google will replace their old images with the new ones. On that date uncertain, the original MOAB Sign and historical Lions Club Park will exit three dimensional time-space reality (3DTSR), henceforth living only in memory.
This is Part 2 of a two-part article. To read Part 1, click HERE.
at 03:36 PM |
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Current-Era History in Moab, Utah Began at the "Jumping Off Place"
On Sunday, June 10, 1855, members of the Mormon Elk Mountain Mission crossed the Grand River at a place near Moab, Utah. After crossing that torrent, their likely first camp was at a place that we now call the Moab “Lions Park Transit Hub”.
In the 1850s, there was no graceful concrete highway bridge or steel-truss pedestrian bridge at the site. Instead, the settlers found a “jumping off place”, which was a perpendicular ledge standing twenty-five feet above the river. In order to make the crossing, the men of the Elk Mountain Mission were obliged to “take their wagons to pieces” and lower them down by ropes. After ferrying their wagons and supplies across the river, the settlers made their first camp. Soon after, they built a stone and wooden fort in what is now the Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve.
During their spring and summer in Moab, misunderstandings between the Elk Mountain Mission and local Paiute or Southern Ute Indians escalated into a shooting war. Before the beginning of winter 1855, the Mormons lost several of their members to Indian bullets, clubs or arrows. With looming crop failure, unexpected flooding and a plague of mosquitoes along the river bend, the remaining members of the mission abandoned the area and high-tailed it back to Green River and then on to Salt Lake City before year's end.
In the 1880s, the commencement of ferryboat operations across the Colorado River at Moab enhanced the riverside location’s status as a “transit hub” for the humble settlement. Operating near the site of the present U.S. Highway 191 Bridge, the original, oar-powered ferryboat was only twenty-eight feet long. To prevent capsize, wagons were dismantled at the riverbank, ferried across and then reconstructed on the far side. Perhaps this is why early travelers called Moab "The Far Place". Until the early twentieth century, ferrying, fording or paddling remained the only modes of transport across the Colorado River at Moab.
Ironically, the Moab survey map dated 1880 appears to show a bridge across the Colorado River almost exactly where the current double-span highway bridge now stands. According to conventional Moab history, it would be thirty-two more years before the 1912 highway bridge spanned the river near the "jumping off place".
In 1912, "slightly radioactive Vanadium" (having a half-life of >3.9×1017 years) was discovered in nearby Cisco, Utah. Also that year, the Utah state legislature authorized funding for a triple-span steel bridge across the Colorado River at Moab. With a length of 620-feet, that first highway bridge opened up commerce from Moab to the north. The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad siding at Brendel, thirty miles to the north became a transit point for agricultural and manufactured goods. By the time refrigerated rail cars became available, Spanish Valley peaches, many larger than a softball, became famous in Eastern cities.
Although accurate flow measurements of the Colorado River were not available in 1912, locals knew from previous floods that the highway bridge should stand high above the river. As a testament to their prudent planning, a sandstone bridge abutment still stands on the north bank, as high and strong as the day it was finished, over one hundred years ago. On the south bank, the 1912 highway bridge terminated near the same spot where the current Riverway pedestrian bridge begins its own 620-foot span of the river.
Previously known to all as the Grand River, in 1921 Congress bowed to political pressure and erroneously renamed the currently recognized river as the "The Colorado River". Although it is a longer and stronger tributary to what we now call the Upper Colorado Basin, the Green River received no credit in the history books. Instead, the Colorado River became the politically correct source of the mighty river well-known for its creation of the Grand Canyon. Red, green; if you plan to recreate history on your own terms, what is the difference?
According to Moab native Mrs. Verlyn Westwood (1936-2009), there was once a guard shack on the north bank, across from what later would become Lions Club Park. During World War II, two men took turns guarding the old Colorado River highway bridge. With little vehicular traffic crossing the bridge at Moab, nighttime guard duty was lonely and quiet. On a night uncertain, a large boulder came loose from the canyon rim above. Without warning, the errant boulder crashed down upon the guard shack, crushing to death Mr. Otto Ellis, who was standing guard that night. Decades later, some local residents suggested the erection of a memorial plaque at that site.
If you research “Lions Club Park, Moab, Utah”, there are few historical references to the place. For decades, a masonry and wooden historical sign stood at the park. The sign stood at a diagonal, facing the intersection of U.S. Highway 191 and Utah State Route 128. From its fading and flaking text, we know that the Lions were still adding improvements to the park well into the 1980s.
Sometime after its inception in 1940, the Lions Club of Moab adopted and named the park. With tacit blessings from the City of Moab and Grand County, the Lions Club installed pit toilets and built a kitchen building. From a paved parking lot, concrete walkways led to picnic tables, shaded by immense Fremont Cottonwood trees. With a natural water source nearby, the club created Lions Park Spring, which was lesser known than “Matrimony Spring”, just across State Highway 128. With its shady glen, lush trees and access to the Colorado River, it is easy to imagine many a local marriage celebrated at the park.
On Saturday, Sept. 24, 2005, from 1 to 3 PM, the Moab Lions Club celebrated its 75th anniversary at Lions Park. By then, the word “Club” had disappeared from the official name of the park. On that fall day in 2005, former members and Lions from neighboring communities joined local Lions for lunch and a program.
In 2007, the Moab Lions Club was active in the area. News reports indicate that Moab Lions members conducted a highway clean up in both the spring and fall, picking up trash along the highway between Lin Ottinger's Rock Shop and the Colorado River Bridge. In addition, the Moab Lions Club worked to clean up the Lions Park area, removing weeds and trash.
Planning for reconfiguration of the area around Lions Park had been underway since 2001. In 2003, Utah State University produced concept drawings of the area. In 2007, Grand County created a task force to develop recommendations for the project area. With help from the National Park Service, the task force became the Lions Park Planning Group (LPPG). The LPPG included Moab City, Grand County, National Park Service (NPS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Sovereign Lands, Trail Mix, Moab Trail Alliance and the Lions Club.
In May 2010, Moab Happenings published an article about the upgrading and expansion of Lions Park. Soon it would extend beyond its tiny niche on the east side of the highway bridge. The long-term goals got a boost with the opening of the Colorado Riverway Bridge in 2008. That 620-foot bicycle and pedestrian bridge took nine years of work, from concept to completion.
“Moab is about to lead the way in designing a ‘sustainable’ Lions Park at the Colorado River bridge,” Lions Park project leader Sharen Hauri, told a crowd. The reconstructed park was envisioned as an “oasis and gateway” to Moab. “We want to make this a world-class project that nobody will ever forget.”
Downstream from the Riverway Bridge, a new Colorado River highway bridge opened in 2011. That event added urgency to the redevelopment of the triangle of land known historically as Lions Club Park. The LPPG looked forward to trails, interpretive signs and facilities that would complete the central site, “It’s all going to be a showpiece,” Kim Schappert said. The project is referred to as “Lions Park: Gateway to Moab.”
“We want to allow people to connect to the Southwest and Moab in a way that is memorable forever,” said Reci Peterson, an interpretive planner and consultant for Psomas Design of Salt Lake.
The Grand County Historical Preservation Commission (HPC) proposed that the area be designated a historic district. HPC members argued for recognition of numerous cultural and archaeological resources and sites near the park. Included on their list were Matrimony Spring, the Moab Panel (Indian rock art), and the World War II bridge-guard station. Members of the HPC wanted recognition of a colorful history of river crossings by such parties as the Spanish conquistadors, early Native American traders, Anglo trappers, the 1855 Elk Mountain Mission and outlaws such as Butch Cassidy.
Presenters said that the Lions Park transit-trailhead hub would have as its focal point a “signature building” with a plaza full of interpretive stories and other information. Other features would include picnic tables by the river, grassy and shady areas for play and relaxation, sand and volleyball courts, plus water features using nearby natural springs. Plans included several pavilions for group events, and a gigantic “walk-over” map that park visitors could traverse to see where they are in relation to the river, mountains and geography of Southwest.
“This keeps getting better as time goes along,” Community Development Director Dave Olsen said.
This is Part 1 of a two-part article. To read Part 2, click HERE.
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