Castle Valley Comments – July 11, 2019

The Second Annual Fourth of July Pancake Breakfast, which is sponsored by the Castle Valley Fire Department, was another success, according to Susan Halliday, who coordinated the event.

About 100 people gathered at the firehouse that morning to partake of pancakes, bacon, orange juice and coffee while listening to delightful live music provided by Ted Bright and Debbie Holland. City Market of Moab provided the bacon, Moab Coffee Roasters provided the coffee and Sorrel River Ranch donated the orange juice while several people manned the grills to cook the pancakes.

Lauren Fuller and Scott Cookston won the Stihl battery-powered weed trimmer, which was offered as a door prize during the breakfast, and Brandy Gritts tattooed everyone who looked like they needed one.

The previous day at the library, Jenny Haraden supervised the bicycle decorating for the parade and Diane Ackerman was in charge of the bake sale. The parade after the breakfast featured many festively decorated bicycles and scooters in addition to a float that was provided by Greg Halliday and pulled by him and his band-new Kubota tractor, which featured Pamela Gibson holding a golden weed eater while promoting the creation of fire breaks.

“The Beast,” which is the fire department’s large wildland fire engine, provided relief from the heat from the engine’s water cannon as it proceeded along the parade route. Halliday thinks everyone had a lot of fun and it was nice to see everyone getting together to celebrate the birth of our country.

Speaking of the fire department, I reported on a grass fire 35 years ago in this column that burned about a third of an acre on Buchanan Lane. The fire department was dispatched at 10:58 a.m. July 6, 1984 and had it contained within 10 minutes. The fire was started by a hot muffler of a drill rig that ignited the dry grass beneath the rig and spread from there.

This particular fire wasn’t too bad, but some of our early worst fires were caused by well drillers who started fires from their welders or grinders while working on metal well casings. The current well drillers are not as reckless as the old-timers and they require a large clearing around the area before they start a well.

That column also reported on firebreaks that were being constructed in the Castle Valley River Ranchos to help control the possibility of a wildfire. The joint venture between the property owners association, Castle Valley Fire Department and the Grand County Road Department developed 15-foot-wide firebreaks on easements between property boundaries at potential trouble spots. In addition, Canyonlands Contracting was hired by the POA to clear the roads to their maximum width as an extra precaution. There were not as many residents here back then and much of the property was still owned by the developer, so the parties involved could indiscriminately scar up the land without repercussions. Even though clearing the land for firebreaks was effective back then, it probably wouldn’t go over very well today.

A milestone of sorts was finalized in Castle Valley 30 years ago this week. The town had been incorporated four years previous and since the time of incorporation, Town Council Member John Groo began his efforts to move the control of water from the state to the town. Through his efforts, the state engineer’s office approved Castle Valley’s water application, which was an important step toward the town controlling the water instead of the state.

This was a difficult process and involved numerous trips by Groo to Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Price, and a lot of pushing and prodding of lawyers and consultants. This meant that the property owners didn’t have to face the burden of “proving up” their water as was done in the past.

Previously, we had to prove to the state engineers office that we could use the allotted amount of acre feet of water their property was assigned by cultivating and planting enough acres of crops to meet the requirement.

Some property owners had already lost their water and others were in jeopardy at that time, but after the finalization of the application, the town had the authority to protect the valley’s water. We continue to benefit from the efforts and leadership of John Groo and the rest of the town council back then.