Castle Valley residents have historically used east Shafer Lane to access the Castleton Road as a shortcut to the mountains, fire station or other destinations along that road. And they’ve done so without thought as to who owned it. The developer of the Castle Valley River Ranchos didn’t provide for another legal and convenient way out of the valley in case of emergencies, so Shafer Lane provided that egress – until people bought the two lots at the end of Shafer Lane. That essentially put the road on private property and blocked access to the Castleton Road.
In 1997, the Castle Valley Town Council created an ordinance “closing the fire station access road north of Shafer Lane to the La Sal Mountain Loop Road” and a gate was installed at the fire station to stop traffic. The Castle Valley Fire Department had sort of a verbal agreement with one of the property owners to use the road for training and emergencies, but when a gate at the end of Shafer was installed by the property owner it hampered access to the fire station and created some tension.
Richard and Janet Willoughby from Santa Rosa, Calif., bought one of the lots at the end of Shafer Lane and built a beautiful home to live in while in the area. Richard, who wanted to join the fire department once he moved here, passed away unexpectedly last year, but Janet continues to enjoy the beauty of her Castle Valley home and surroundings.
She recognized the need for a permanent access to the fire station and agreed to grant an easement along the edge of her property for a road that connects with the town’s greenbelt lot. The fire department also purchased a road easement from the state School and Institution Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), which is also part of the road system to the fire station, and with an agreement with the town to share easements and rights-of-way, plans were then underway for the town to begin building the road on the new easement. The town also approved an amendment to the ordinance that opens the road for emergency use.
Eventually, the other owner at the end of Shafer Lane saw the impracticality of having two parallel roads going through their lots and agreed to the same understanding as the neighbor. That landowner signed an easement as well. That agreement basically put the road down through the property lines. Castle Valley Road Manager Greg Halliday and fellow employee Mark Roth graded the road and applied gravel to make it an all-season emergency access that goes through the private land easements, the town greenbelt land, SITLA land and land owned by the fire department to the Castleton Road. It will still be closed to the public, except for bicycles, horses and joggers, but will be open in the event of an emergency where the main road is not accessible.
A short ribbon-cutting ceremony was held last Thursday afternoon, Sept. 19, to officially open the road and name that section of the road “Willoughby Lane.” Castle Valley Mayor Dave Erley spoke to the small group of friends and neighbors who assembled and he was followed by Castle Valley Fire Commissioner Ron Mengel and myself. Fire commissioners Bob Lippman and Dave Vaughn as well as Lesley Craig were mentioned for their work in bringing this epic event to fruition. Mengel presented her with a plaque commemorating the event and I, as fire chief, named her an honorary member of the fire department and presented her with an official t-shirt. An open house followed at the Willoughby home and drinks and snacks were furnished.
The ceremony was small and simple, but it represented a major service and aid to the citizens of Castle Valley, providing a legal and year-around alternate route in and out of the valley in the event of a natural disaster. It also represents months of volunteer work by those who made this happen and the cooperation of two landowners and their vision for the betterment of the community.
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The construction of the bicycle bridges along state Route 128 continues to progress, but the promised completion date of the end of summer looks like it will go well into the fall or winter. The patience of Castle Valley residents is beginning to wear thin as the project continues on, especially for one valley woman. She said that she left home at 10:30 a.m. last Wednesday and didn’t get to her appointment in Moab until 1.5 hours later.
The frustrated woman got behind the 100-car procession of the Colorado Grand charity tour, which is designed to showcase sports and race cars built in 1960 or earlier. The cars were on their way to a stop at Rotary Park where they were to be treated for lunch. She sat through six traffic light cycles at each bridge while the masses of cars proceed through the lights before she was able to finally get out of the canyon and to her appointment.
There will be more nighttime road closures on SR 128 beginning Oct. 6 at 11:30 p.m., according to the latest information from Flatiron Construction. The road closure will be in effect from 11:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. each night. Anyone with a true medical emergency during the closure will have to call the Grand County Sheriff’s Office at 911 and the dispatcher will have the road opened so you can proceed to the hospital.
ByBy Ron Drake