When Clifford first traveled to Moab, he planned to stay for two or three days. He ended up staying much longer than that, and convincing his parents to visit, too.
“We fell in love and started looking for places to live.” he explained. Shortly after, he and his parents found a thirty-acre piece of land in Castle Valley, and purchased it. “It was really hard to find,” Clifford said. “For about four months I didn’t do anything but explore. We knew we wanted to be here, we loved it, but we didn’t know much about it. The first four years I was in the valley, I didn’t spend enough time in town to get to know anybody. Nobody would know my name three years ago.”
Clifford spent those first four years becoming acquainted with the natural beauty of the area. He says he knew he loved it here in the desert, but was not quite set on staying. “I was just going to travel. I wanted to live in a school bus on a road,” he said.
It wasn’t until he bought the property on Kane Creek that he really began to get involved in the community of Moab. He explained, “My plan was when I was 23 to go on the road, not to commit to much. And then I found this property. I wasn’t really looking for it.”
Clifford has a way of getting to know people, serendipitously. His friends attribute this to his slow, easy way of conversation, and real interest in people’s lives. His longtime friend Julia Lupine describes the first time she met him, when they took a ride down a Jeep trail together, saying, “By the end of that trail I just felt like I was talking to a family member.”
When Clifford met Charlie Nelson, Clifford offered to survey Nelson’s property, “half because I was interested in the property and half because I just liked the guy,” he said.
In return, Nelson gave Clifford an offer he could not refuse, and Clifford bought the property.
“It wasn’t that I made this conscious decision to settle down in Moab or anything, but it kind of changed my life plans for a while,” Clifford said. “I was going to work as a river guide like everybody else, but river guiding didn’t pay enough to make property payments, so I got into construction. Once I got the property, I started spending more time in Moab, and it’s such a small town it’s not hard to get to know people.”
Since then, Clifford has become involved in a number of construction projects in town, one of the most impressive being the creation of the Moab Made store. Clifford met Tim McAllister by chance, and McAllister asked him to come on board with the construction of the shop.
Regarding the project, Clifford said, “They had an idea about how they wanted to have an art store with local artists, but were doing it on a very low budget. Basically they had to build it with what they had, and if it worked, they would get the finances together.”
Clifford said he did not think twice about getting involved. He loved the idea of the store, and helped build it in the hopes of its future success. “And then, it worked,” he said, “It was a fun project, I liked working on that one a lot.”
As to his own property, Clifford is slowly working on construction projects of his own. “As far as building, we’ve just gotten started,” he said. So far, the land holds a small residence, an area for mechanical work, and a junkyard. In the future, Clifford hopes to have a more functional mechanic’s shop for his own personal projects, in addition to a space for artwork, where Moab residents can use it as a type of artist co-working space.
Clifford’s experience working with set design and construction for music festivals has given him another, somewhat larger goal for the space, too. “The thing that’s very difficult about festivals is that a lot of them are very excessive and wasteful, and unsustainable in a way. You leave and you see piles of things thrown away, all of it wasted,” he said.
Since he hosts the occasional music event on his property already, Clifford hopes his land can be model for a newer, more sustainable and eco-friendly type of music festival venue.
“If there is a network of these properties, where you can see music and stay and help build a sustainable community, people can travel between them and actually contribute. Why are we spending enough money to build real things with multiple purposes, and spending it on fake, temporary things?” Clifford said.
“I’m not going for anything huge. It’s going to be a small, intimate scale,” he continued, “We can create a network of people and places and properties, then we can share our resources.”