In January, I reported that six members of our fire department attended the annual Winter Fire School in St. George. The fire school is sponsored annually by Utah Fire and Rescue Academy and Utah Valley University. The fire department also responded to 15 fire or medical incidents during the year, which started in February with a fire on a trailer loaded with straw bales on state Route 128. That was followed by a clothes dryer fire at Sorrel River Ranch, the historic cabin and wildland fire in May and four lightning-caused fires in July. The fire volunteers also responded to an illegal controlled burn in August, a fire on Adobe Mesa in September and six medical assists during the year. The fire danger was so severe that a statewide ban on fires was issued by the State Fire Warden.
The Cabin Fire in May was possibly caused by high winds, but if not, the winds certainly fanned the fire to consume 20 acres of grass and brush and threaten five homes before being contained. The fierce winds also knocked the power out for five hours before it was restored later that afternoon. The winds also knocked the telephone equipment on Bald Mesa out of alignment, leaving the valley with no phone service for 36 hours and damaging roofs and small buildings. It was a wild and crazy day, which will be remembered for some time to come.
In April, the Castle Valley Planning and Land Use Commission considered a request by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to construct a steeple on the Castle Valley building. The commission recommended approval of two of the five plans submitted, and at the town council meeting the following week they approved the plan for a 47-foot steeple. Work began almost immediately to construct the interior building supports and the steeple was installed in October. The previous stand-alone steeple was showing signs of deterioration and needed to be replaced.
In April, Michael Peck set up a community supported agriculture program with the Day Star Academy’s Castle Valley Farms. They offered a share of produce for $225, with pick-ups on Thursday afternoons at the farm. The program started in May and ran through October and included a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
The State Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands sponsored chipper days in the valley in May and again in October. The crew came to residents’ homes, where the workers ran tree limbs through a large chipper and left piles of usable woods chips in their place. They plan to make this an annual event in the future.
There were numerous mountain lion sightings in the valley during June. Three people spotted mountain lions crossing the road and one was seen roaming around on the porch of a Chamisa Lane couple, leaving a sizable footprint on a hot tub cover just three feet from their bedroom door. The cougar was suspected in the disappearance of their house cat that night.
July 26 marked the 40th anniversary of when the Castle Valley River Ranchos was approved as a subdivision. The map and document simply stated: “On July 26, 1972, at a joint meeting of Grand County Commissioners and Grand County Planning Commission, approval of this development was granted.” It was signed by John E. Keogh, chairman, Grand County Planning Commission and Grand County surveyor, Mars Pope, chairman, Grand County Commission, Ralph J. Miller Sr., Grand County commissioner and Albert Daniel Holyoak, Grand County commissioner.
The community endured nearly 24 hours of power outages in late July. Weather-related issues were the cause of one incident and pole failure was listed as the cause of the other. Because of the remoteness of the power lines, crews worked through the night to locate the problems.
Castle Valley’s newly trained Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) held its first meeting in August. Alison Fuller was elected by the group to be team leader. They took the 24-hour course in July.
For the eighth year, Castle Valley was the site of a landing zone for participants of the annual skydiving festival, which is held in Moab. Mike Messick and Julie Wentz hosted a barbeque after 46 people literally dropped in for dinner in August.
In October, Yrma van der Steenstraeten thanked everyone who made the annual Castle Valley Gourd Festival a success. The potluck lunch hosted 200 people, and between 350 and 400 people visited the festival.
The Town of Castle Valley had a productive year, with a new road shed being the most notable addition to the Town Hall lot. The council accepted an offer of a low-interest loan from the Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund Board (CIB) to build a road shed late last year. The town put the project out to bid and later opened those bids in February. The council followed the recommendation of a committee and awarded the bid to Moab Construction, which started construction at the end of May. During the Oct. 17 town council meeting, Castle Valley Road Manager Greg Halliday handed the keys and a certificate of completion of the road shed to Mayor Dave Erley, thus completing the project.
The town council began a discussion about buying crack sealing equipment for Castle Valley Drive in April after the Grand County Road Department was hired to do the work. The project was about one-quarter completed last January when the council decided it was becoming too expensive and asked the county to stop. The town purchased crack sealing equipment this fall and placed an order for blocks of tar in December, but will not be able to work on the road until sometime this year.
The town awarded the annual Castle Valley scholarship to Morgan Taylor in June. She was the only high school senior to qualify and submit an application.
The town council created an ordinance to ban dogs from the town property after complaints were received after the gourd festival in October.
Tom Noce was appointed to the planning and land use commission and Jeff Johnston was selected to fill a seat on the road commission. Jill Kulander rendered her resignation as town clerk in May and was replaced by Alison Fuller the same month. Bruce Keeler stepped down as the town’s representative to the county solid waste board and was replaced by former resident Bruce Millis in June, and Ron Mengel resigned as the town’s water agent with no replacement planned until this month. Castle Valley Planning and Land Use Commission chairwoman Mary Beth Fitzburgh was reappointed to her position when her current term expired. Former councilwoman Lynn Henry resigned her position in April and was replaced by Jazmine Duncan in June.
Several of our cherished residents died during the past year. They include Mike Osborne, Dustin Bowden, Ken Johnson and Bill Buchanan. Even though Bill lived most of his adult life in Moab, he was a pioneer resident of Castle Valley, having lived here as a child on the Pace Ranch.