Castle Valley Comments, Aug. 15, 2019

There has been a lot of discussion lately about bear activity around the area. The Salt Lake City news channels are all abuzz about a 13-year-old boy who was bit on the left side of his face while sleeping in a tent at the Dewey Bridge Campground. The boy was apparently taken to a hospital where he was treated and released. The State Division of Wildlife Resources has located and destroyed the bear.

In Castleton several bears have been harassing the residents every night by getting into the orchards and destroying property. Several days ago a trap was set on one of the properties and caught a sow and a cub, and they are trying to catch the other cub, which is still on the lam.

There is at least one bear roaming around Castle Valley that is causing some trouble for people but is after a beehive in particular. Dorr Hatch had a bear tip over his bee hives Saturday night but didn’t do much damage because he had them all strapped together. He was able to straighten them up with little damage and the bees were not harmed. Hatch related an incident that occurred 20 years ago about a beekeeper with hives on a mountain range somewhat like the La Sal Mountain where a lot of bears lived. He hooked a portable radio to a car battery for power and played music all week long until he returned a week later to recharge the battery. He said that the radio seemed to keep the bears away from the hives at that time.

Remembering that experience, Hatch ran an electrical cord to where his hives are located and tuned the radio to 97.1 and is playing country/western music all day and night in hopes of keeping the bear away from the hives. Even so, Hatch is up half the night checking on the hives and is in and out of bed the other half to make sure the bees are all right. He is not sure why there are so many bears down in the lower elevations this year but maybe the late winter had something to do with it since it was still winter when they came out of hibernation. In the case of his bear, he thinks the mother kicked the cubs out on their own and they are simply looking for food.

Several weeks ago a bear was getting into the honey of the beehives belonging to Lee Stoddard who lives at the end of Chamisa Lane. After several visits the bear finally destroyed a hive, so a trap was delivered by a conservation officer from the State Division of Wildlife Resources and a young bear was trapped, fitted with a collar and transplanted to the Abajo Mountains. That seemed to solve the problem until the most recent bear activity.

Twenty years ago this week, this column reported on a public hearing to receive input about a tax levy in Castle Valley. The Town of Castle Valley was incorporated 14 years prior–in June 1985–and was operating without a financial base. When the town was incorporated, it had not levied a tax on the residents but was existing financially from state road funds, sales tax and service charges, but mostly from funds received from the Castle Valley River Ranchos Property Owners’ Association. The town had been courting the idea of a tax as a more responsible way of doing business for quite some time, and the action 20 years ago was a culmination of that idea.

The controversial topic was fairly evenly divided by those who spoke, and astonishingly, everyone conducted themselves admirably and with respect for the opinions of others. Much of the discussion centered around the relationship between the town and the POA. One of the POA board members thought the dues should be set at $30 per year, the minimum allowable under the covenants, but others wondered on the need to have both the town and POA operating in the valley. One of the POA board members responded by saying that both were viable, pointing out that with a basic set of covenants and “core rules,” the POA offered a lot of security.

In contrast, it was pointed out that the town could give protection through zoning ordinances, but that three on the town council could utterly change what people want. “The town can respond quickly to problems,” according to a board member, “but the POA, because of a cumbersome set of rules, moves slower. Both can perform well, both have strengths and weaknesses,” it was noted. Another board member added that the POA represents all property owners, not just the registered voters, and another audience member suggested that if the out-of-towners have the same vote, they could control what happens to locals. The property owners association operated for several more years but didn’t levy dues, and it was eventually officially and legally disbanded.

During that public hearing the town council voted unanimously to levy the tax and approved the proposed tax rate and budget by a 4-1 vote.