Castle Valley Comments
March 2, 2017

Thirty-five year ago this week, this column reported that members of the Castle Valley Branch of the LDS Church were busy dismantling two of the greenhouses, which formerly housed the business of Ron Cooper’s Red Ripe Tomatoes in Moab. The buildings each measured 28 feet by 142 feet and were a gift to the branch by Ray Alger of Moab. The plans at the time were to erect the greenhouses on property that the church owned at 205 Shafer Lane and produce hydroponically grown tomatoes and other vegetables. Some of the other greenhouses from the Moab business were also donated to a Moab ward of the church.

I don’t recall why the greenhouses were never erected on the property, but it was probably because of the amount of time and work it would take to erect the buildings and maintain the operation. Castle Valley people were already extremely busy building and maintaining their own properties and it was decided to donate the greenhouses elsewhere.

The church-owned property at 205 Shafer Lane was formerly owned by an elderly disabled man, Ernie Foust, who lost a leg as the result of a rodeo accident years before. He was making a living by doing light construction work with a small backhoe/loader around the valley but his health and the lack of a lot of people here at the time were limiting his ability to make a decent living. Church members assisted him in completing the log home that he started a few years previously, which got him out of the dingy little cellar where he lived and into the house. Only the rough log walls were standing on a foundation when work began and the members constructed the roof, poured a concrete floor, built interior walls and wrapped the exterior with native rock to complete the building. The church paid off his mortgage and purchased the property, which allowed him to live in his home until he passed away a few years later.

Foust was one of the original Castle Valley River Ranchos pioneers to move into the valley and join other colorful and unique inhabitants. He enjoyed a full life working at a variety of occupations beginning at the age of 13. He told me once that, rather than face disciplinary action from his father, he left home and hooked up with a lumber mill, driving a team of four horses and a sled loaded with logs. He made the 40-mile round trip from Haypoint to Hill City, Minnesota, in one day for $2. He cut timber, worked in a maple camp and rode logs down the Mississippi River, all before the age of 16. He traded five leather jackets that he made for a down payment on his Shafer Lane property, where he started his house and developed several acres in tomatoes that first year. He later bought the small tractor and backhoe and did construction in the valley and eventually built and sold “wagon wheel beds” that he constructed at his home.

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In this column 25 years ago I reported on the rockslides that were falling onto state Route 128. The latest rockslide back then occurred at 5:30 p.m. “when rocks and mud covered both lanes approximately 13 miles east of U.S. 191, closing the road for about an hour until the Utah Department of Transportation crew could clear it out.” Some things never change.

The subject of road encroachments and the need to start enforcing the rights of way were also covered in that column. “Property fences in many cases encroach into the road easement and the cul-de-sacs are a particular problem,” I wrote, “there is no room to turn around, especially for emergency vehicles such as fire trucks.” The town road supervisor was going to make a list of offenders and the town was to send out letters to those people. The town council was also going to formulate a policy to deal with the problem of encroachments.

Today, the subject of inadequate cul-de-sacs is still discussed at our fire training meetings occasionally, along with how to get our big fire engines turned around on the upper side roads. It is not necessarily always a problem of fences. Mostly the problem is that the cul-de-sacs never met the legal required minimum radius when developed originally. And to meet the legal requirement won’t be easy because of canyons, boulders or other physical features that encroach where the cul-de-sacs are supposed to be — or maybe it’s the other way around. At any rate, it continues to be a problem — some things never change.

I ran across some interesting statistics that I shared 25 years ago. The number of registered voters in 1989 in District 8 was 218 and in 1991 it was 221. The official census in 1990 showed the town with a population of 215. Of the original lots of the Castle Valley River Ranchos subdivision, only five remained unsold. Deeds were awarded to 119 lots in Castle Valley during 1991 and the county building inspector had eight active building permits for Castle Valley at this time 25 years ago.

ByBy Ron Drake