Castle Valley Comments: Jan. 2, 2020

Nearly 60 people honor Cris Coffey during her annual Christmas Eve brunch. Photo Courtesy of Leta Vaughn

I mentioned in this column a couple of weeks ago that after all of the Christmas merriment that occurred the previous couple of weeks there was still one more party to attend before Christmas.

For many years Cris Coffey has hosted an annual Christmas brunch at her home on Holyoak Lane. This year, however, she is not home but is living at the Canyonlands Care Center and was not able to host her annual treasured tradition.

This year many of her friends and members of her art group under the direction of Pamela Gibson kept the tradition alive by organizing the event at the town hall and inviting everyone who wanted to come. Leta Vaughn, another of the organizers said, “it was pretty heart warming to see how many people made Chris’ Christmas eve brunch” and they plan to do it again next year. In all, nearly 60 people showed up to greet Cris and enjoy the holiday spirit among friends.

Every year, in addition to the brunch, she recites a treasured family poem, which she has been reciting at Christmastime for a very long time. The poem, which is called “Old Santa Claus” was written by Cris’ grandmother, Jenny Snow Christensen in 1908 while she was living in Manti.

Her grandmother died at a very young age, a time when her father was only 14 years old, and a family tradition began by reciting this poem on Christmas Eve. The tradition has been carried on in Castle Valley. Leta remembers last year hearing that kids that grew up in Castle Valley and are now adults say, “Okay, now it’s Christmas” after the poem was recited. The poem is a comical account of Santa’s problems when he reaches the fictional Wheeler home.

The year 2019 ended nearly the same as it came in: cold and snowy. My thermometer registered 1 degree early Sunday morning after a storm dropped six or seven inches of snow the previous Friday. Some people reported frozen pipes Sunday morning and others related whiteout conditions on the River Road Friday afternoon as they were trying to drive home from Moab.

In January the town held an open house to meet representatives from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and ask questions about proposed changes to Castle Valley hunting designations. The issue is the land around the Castle Valley town boundaries that is outside the town boundaries but on property managed by the BLM and Utah Open Lands that is open to hunters. The town council is trying to create an archery-only designation. In November, two members of the town council met with the Regional Advisory Council in Green River to request a variance of archery-only hunting. They said the meeting was positive and the RAC suggested a compromise to allow shotguns for bird hunting with an exception for law enforcement and wildlife officials.

Castle Valley received a total of 30 inches of snow during the month of February. People with tractors were busy removing snow from driveways and parking lots. An earthquake was felt in Castle Valley in March and the tremor alarmed a lot of people until they knew what was going on. It turned out to be an earthquake that was centered around Bedrock, Colorado about 40 miles southeast of Moab.

It was triggered by a high-pressure brine induction in a mine somewhere in the area. Things also came to a head with Frontier Communications in March. The phone and Internet problems seemed to intensify. Town officials were in contact with the Public Utilities Commission and the Federal Communications Commission in an effort to put pressure on the utility to rectify the situation.

Many of the problems were eventually solved and many people received rebates, but some litigation is still ongoing. Emery Telcom hosted an open house in March and other meetings to discuss the installation of fiber communication the valley. They are currently working in the valley in preparation to install lines.

It was announced in April that the Bureau of Land Management was planning a wildfire mitigation project for the southwestern end of the valley. After several meetings the work began with still more to do. In April a couple of Piper Super Cub airplanes were frolicking around Castle Rock and other formations around Castle Valley. The next day a resident took a picture of a helicopter with an airplane dangling at the end of a cable being towed across the valley. The pilot apparently landed on Parriott Mesa and his or her plane was damaged in the process. The BLM was investigating the incident but wouldn’t comment further.

Next week, I’ll continue this year in review.