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Chapter Number #326: Moab, Utah - Lions Club Park - Part 2 - May 29, 2015


The Big Yellow Taxi, owned by Moab Sign & Tree Removal visited Moab Lions Park in 2012, promoting removal of all historically significant signs and trees at that location - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

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 Inattention to the Lions Park project led inevitably to what we now call the "Moab Tree Hubbub" - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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.

Historical signage once stood at the edge of Lions Park in Moab - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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.

In 2013, a collection of historical signage from Utah State Route 128 was dumped in a scrap pile behind the original "MOAB Sign" - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)“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.”

Ultimately, the U.S. 191 highway bridge at Moab's Lions Park was deemed to large to dismantle and was allowed to stand - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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.

The original 1912 Colorado River bridge abutment was omitted from the the Lions Park demolition plans and still stands at the scene - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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.

In 2013, the original "MOAB Sign" and the stately Fremont Cottonwood trees still stood at Lions Park in Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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.

Before the "MOAB Sign" disappeared, it started displaying new text about its eventual fate - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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, 

In a brief 2014 effort to save itself from the wrecking ball, the original "Moab Sign" posted this message on its board - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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.

From 2008 through 2014, the original "MOAB Sign" was in obvious distress. In 2015, as part of the rejuvenation of Lions Park in Moab, Utah, it was maliciously destroyed - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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.

Author James McGillis was too late to save the original "Moab Sign" - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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.

The MOAB Sign - Was it only a mirage? In loving memory of Greater Canyonlands, as once we knew it - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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.

We are proud to present the first photo of the New Lions Park in Moab, Utah - Click to see new image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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.


By James McGillis at 03:36 PM | , | Comments (0) | Link


Chapter Number #325: Moab, Utah - Lions Club Park - Part 1 - May 27, 2015


For decades, the MOAB Sign stood at the southeastern corner of old Lions Club Park - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

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 2009 view of the Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve after a human-set fire burned many native Fremont Cottonwood trees there - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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.

This 1880 survey of the Moab Valley shows the ferry crossing near the "jumping off place"  and current U.S. Highway 191 bridge - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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 In 2009, old and abandoned mining equipment still dotted the landscape in Cisco, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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 The original 1912 Grand River highway bridge at Moab terminated in what would later become Lions Club Park - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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 Jim Farrell's 1950 Chevy "Moab Truck" rests atop the original 1912 highway bridge abutment along the Colorado River at Moab, Utah, with the Riverway Bridge in the background - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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.

In this undated photo, a raven sits atop the welcome sign at old Lions Park in Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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
In 2008, traffic crosses the 1960's Colorado River highway bridge, heading for Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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 2010, this adventurous retired couple visited Lions Park on their BMW motorcycle. Note the paved parking, Fremont Cottonwood trees and pit toilet facilities then present at the park - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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, In 2009, the first of two new highway bridge-spans across the Colorado River at Moab was then under construction - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)“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.

This concrete walled cave with a steel door stands near the spot of the ill-fated 1940's guard shack along the Colorado River at Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)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.


By James McGillis at 01:46 PM | , | Comments (0) | Link


Chapter Number #318: 2014 Spanish Valley Vineyards - November 22, 2014


With the dramatic La Sal Range in the background, the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery sign, as seen from the Stocks Drive entrance - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

New Owners at the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery in Moab, Utah

In 2009, when I first visited the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery, I must admit, the place was hard to find. Apparently, the State of Utah does not consider its only surviving estate winery worthy of a cultural information sign on U.S. Highway 191 South. Therefore, I took several wrong turns prior to arriving at the vineyard. At the time, the Dezelsky family owned both the winery and vineyard. Along with a neighbor who had taught them the The Moab Rim, as seen from the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery near Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis)art and science of viticulture, the Dezelsky’s had spent decades developing both the vineyard and the winery operation.

When I returned to the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery in the fall of 2013, a sign on the tasting room door indicated that the property had sold and was in escrow. Disappointed that the winery closed, I drove away. In October 2014, I again visited the vineyard and winery. To my surprise and delight, the place was again open for business.

Mr. Curt Stripeika, the new proprietor and winemaker greeted me and invited me on a tour of the place. Although it was mid-October, the vines looked lush
and green. The few visible clusters of Riesling grapes looked healthy on their Curt Stripeika, owner and winemaker at Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)vines. What I did recall was that in December 2013 and into January 2014, Moab had experienced a deep freeze.

As we walked around the estate, Curt explained that the vineyard had experienced killing frosts during two of the last three winters. Within his newly acquired vineyard, however, there was a redeeming feature. The vines at Spanish Valley Vineyards had their root balls planted well below ground level. In the Spanish Valley's well-drained and sandy soil, the crown of each vine and its shoots had enough insulation to survive all but the hardest of freezes.

Although his vines survived both hard freezes, most of the previous year's new
Riesling grapes on the vine at Spanish Valley Vineyard & Winery, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)wood froze and died. Since grape clusters normally occur on second year growth, there were precious few flower buds capable of supporting a 2014 vintage. Wine grapes are available to vintners from both the Western Slope of Colorado and from California. With those reliable sources, Curt did not expect any shortfall in grape supplies over the next few years. Still, we both hoped that Moab and the Spanish Valley would not experience another hard freeze in the coming winter.

During our tour of the vineyard, Curt pointed to a new storage and bottling building that was going up on the site. He also said that Grand County would soon approve his plans to develop a Bed & Breakfast adjacent to the vineyard. With a view of the vineyard and the spectacular Moab Rim, to the south, it
Legacy Cabernet and new varietal wines from Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery in 2014, near Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)looked like the perfect place for accommodations to me. With acres of the vineyard acting as a natural buffer to the property, we had an unimpeded view of the Moab Rim at its highest point. With the vineyard's quiet, bucolic feel, I could image harried city dwellers coming here for peace, quiet and a glass of fine wine on the veranda.

After our vineyard tour, Curt and I repaired to the tasting room. Although Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery makes white wines and even fruit wines, that day I was interested in tasting Curt’s hearty red wines. First, I sampled the last estate wine produced by the Delsky family. It was a 2012 Utah Cabernet Sauvignon, grown, produced and bottled at Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery. As such, the wine was a
View similar to the MoabWine.com live Spanish Valley Vineyards webcam - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)thoroughly enjoyable, right down to its legacy label. Soon, I predict, this rare Utah wine will become a collector’s item.

Next, I tried the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery Syrah, Tempranillo and
Zinfandel, all made with California grapes. All three wines had good structure, which hinted at their aging potential. Even with similar robustness, each wine was a good representative of its varietal essence. With its brown-accented label featuring the new “logo lizard”, my favorite of the three wines was the Zinfandel. Immediately, I bought a bottle of each red wine. Looking back now, I wish I had doubled-up on my purchase.

The live webcam at Spanish Valley Vineyards and Winery is located at MoabWine.com (http://jamesmcgillis.com)During the tasting, I sat on a stool at the small bar and stared out the window to the North. As I looked along the rows of vines, I could see some tall trees along Stocks Drive. That road serves as the entrance to the vineyard from U.S. Highway 191 South. Beyond the trees, I could see the famous Moab Slickrock, gleaming in the sun. Spontaneously, I said to Curt, “We need a live webcam here”.

After explaining that I had just lost access to a webcam at an RV Park down the highway, I proposed that we reposition it there, at the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery. I went on to explain the easy setup of a webcam in the window of the tasting room. With that, Curt readily agreed to the plan. The next afternoon, I installed the webcam and published it on the homepage of
MoabWine.com. The results were spectacular, showing the vineyard, its surrounding topography and any weather approaching Moab from the Curt and Alesia Stripeika, the new owners of the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery in Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)northwest.

While I was testing the webcam, Curt’s wife and business partner, Alesia arrived home from her work in Moab. To commemorate the occasion, I asked Curt and Alesia Stripeika to pose for photos in their new vineyard. Looking now at those pictures, the Stripeikas seem like a modern-day pioneer couple. They also appear ready to take their Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery to a new level of winemaking excellence. In that noble endeavor, I wish them well.

 


By James McGillis at 03:45 PM | , | Comments (0) | Link


Chapter Number #316: Is it Too Late to Save Moab, Utah? - October 30, 2014


As old Moab, Utah fades away, it is being replaced with a new industrial desert - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Old Grand County Council Drives Moab & Greater Canyonlands Over an Environmental Cliff

In mid-October 2014, I had the pleasure of visiting Moab, Utah once again. While in Moab, I planned to visit some of my favorite haunts, see old friends and perhaps meet some new ones. I also planned to document some of the changes that are rapidly overtaking Grand County and Greater Canyonlands.

In 2014, a new gas well drilling rig sprang up adjacent to U.S. Highway 191, north of Moab and in sight of the Book Cliffs - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As some readers will recall, in the latter days of the second George W. Bush administration, there was an all-out push to lease every square inch of public lands for oil, gas and mineral extraction. The effort was so slipshod that lands near the Moab Golf Club and some directly over the well fields that supply Moab with its precious culinary water were included in the original auction proposals.

Through the good work of many in the community and with a change in presidential administrations, the most egregious examples of mineral exploitation were removed from the final auction process. Still, the opening of Grand County to mineral exploitation soon went into full swing. Grand plans like the Utah Recreational Land Exchange of 2009 (URLEA) expanded the template for oil and gas exploration in Grand County. The federal government,
A proposed railroad network spanning seven counties in Southeastern Utah would haul crude oil and tar sands to market - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)through its Bureau of Land Management, divided Grand County into two categories. Some public lands were to be protected, but the majority was up for grabs as oil and gas fields.

Throughout this process, the Grand County Council took every opportunity it could to tell the federal government to keep out of what the council considered to be local issues. In October 2014, the council voted six to one to join six other Utah counties (Emery, Duchesne, Uintah, Daggett, Carbon and San Juan) in what they call the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition (SCIC). Infrastructure, in this case will include roads, pipelines and a rail network designed to accelerate oil, gas and mineral extraction from the member counties.

Faulty welds abound on the new collector gas line on Dubinky Wells Road In Greater Canyonlands, Near Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)To add insult to the injury of the mineral extraction projects that the SCIC supports, the group plans to divert millions of dollars from “community impact funds" to pursue their goals. Rather than helping heal the land and the health of those affected by unbridled extraction of chemicals and hydrocarbons, the coalition plans to use the community impact funds to help build haul-roads, pipeline access and rail facilities. All of their efforts will now go full speed ahead to scrape, drill, pump and haul as much raw hydrocarbon as they can from the affected lands.

When asked why the Grand County Council could not wait until after the November 2014 election to join the SCIC or to put the matter to a public vote, council member Lynn Jackson retorted, "The people voted when the seven of Forlorn and underfed cattle find nothing to graze on at Poverty Flat, near Ken's Lake, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)us were elected up here". Despite the overwhelming number of written protests and the overwhelming number of citizens voicing their opposition at the final Grand County Council meeting on the subject, the Gang of Six extractionist boosters on the council voted to join the anti-environmental cabal of counties. Jackson was subsequently elected as Grand County's representative to the SCIC.

In the past, I have written about the “sense of entitlement” that many residents of Southeastern Utah feel about the public lands in the area. Some feel entitled to grow alfalfa with water diverted from Ken’s Lake (Puddle). Others feel it is acceptable to sell Moab’s culinary water to gas well drillers at bargain prices. Still others feel it is their right to search and remove artifacts New gas well rigs the size of small cities now dot the landscape in Greater Canyonlands, near Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)of ancient cultures that once lived in the area. For many residents of the area, the predominant feeling seems to be, “This is our land and we can do whatever we want with it”.

In the past several years, arches, spires and even dinosaur tracks have crumbled, disappeared or been stolen by local residents. Still, there has never been a study completed to determine the health or even the size of the aquifer that supports all human and other life in the Spanish Valley and Moab. To my knowledge, no one has ever studied the potential seismic effects of oil, gas, potash or tar sands exploration and extraction in Greater Canyonlands. Through ignorance, greed or willful disregard for the greater good, will the “entitled few” spoil the
In stark contrast to rampant oil, gas and mineral extraction near Moab, Utah, the grape vines at Spanish Valley Vineyards and Winery enhance both the culture and the ambiance of the area - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)wonders that took nature eons to create?

On Tuesday, November 4, 2014, the registered voters of Grand County have a choice between continuing to stack the Grand County Council with extractionist sympathizers or to go in a new direction and bring environmental sanity back to that elected body. Soon enough, we shall see the results.


Author's Note: November 6, 2014 - Moab Times-Independent - "Grand County voters buck national trend by electing moderates, progressives to county council". By sizeable margins, Jaylyn Hawks, Mary Mullen McGann and Chris Baird defeated their more conservative-leaning opponents in an election in which 74.15 percent of active Grand County voters cast ballots.

 

 


By James McGillis at 10:31 PM | , | Comments (0) | Link

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