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Coal truck traffic through Ferron City has become a source of concern for many residents

At the Ferron City Hall on April 3 a public hearing was held to discuss the speed limits through Ferron City. At the request of Ferron City the Division of Traffic and Safety has conducted a speed study on SR-10 RP 25.0 to RP 28.32 in Ferron. Ferron Mayor Garth Larsen said, "We have received a lot of complaints about speeding in Ferron, both on the south end and on the north end of town. We would like to see the speed limits lowered, Kleston Laws from the Utah Department of Transportation will speak to us on how and what the process needs to be to make that happen."

Laws explained how speed limits are set in the state of Utah. Laws said, "Speed limits are set by a number of things including: design speed, vehicle speed, number of accidents, road surface and shoulder conditions, grade, curvature, sight distance, roadside development- parking, driveways. Engineering studies to determine the proper speed limit therefore include actual measurements of the prevailing 85 percentile speed. The speed limit is set by the rate of speed 85 percent of the vehicles are going. We did the speed test in Ferron two weeks ago. Most of the drivers are reasonable and prudent and don't go faster than the posted limits. We did find one section that could be changed from 55 to 45 at mile marker 25 to Scott's RV Storage. Studies show that lowering the speed limits does not automatically decrease speed and increase safety."

It was at this point in the meeting that Ferron citizens and Sheriff Lamar Guymon told Laws his study was flawed. They pointed out a number of reasons, including the people conducting the speed study were in a white van and a white car which automatically led to reduced speeds and also the fact the survey was done in the morning and afternoon. The coal trucks passing through Ferron do not start running until the evening hours.

Mayor Larsen wondered if as a city Ferron could propose a speed limit. Laws said it is a state law that UDOT set speed limits. In some cases ordinances set speeds on local city streets, but most limits are set by the 85th percentile and he was not aware of any ordinance to change it.

Mayor Larsen asked who they could talk to. Rep. Brad Johnson said a good place to start would be with the transportation commission. He mentioned that Bevan Wilson from Huntington is a member of that commission.

Laws pointed out before a change could be made there would have to be a comment period, consultation with the county sheriff and highway patrol. State law allows UDOT to establish a new prima facie speed for specific locations on state highways., when it is based on an "engineering and traffic investigation."

The comment period from the citizens was next with Roy Edgell speaking, he said, "I have had 24 kids in foster care and I'm conerned about their safety. Coal trucks come by and shake the house. The other day my son was almost hit by a coal truck. I have been in an accident with a coal truck. I think the speed limit is too high and the study was bogus. They need to hide in the bushes with the radar gun and stay all night."

One citizen wondered why all the cities have speed limits of 35 m.p.h. the whole length of their city limits but Ferron. 'Why should we have to put up with excessive speeds?'

Mayor Larsen said they would draft a letter as a city council to the governor to find out why the city has no jurisdiction on a road going through their town. Rep. Johnson volunteered to research what rights the city has and what they do not have. He will report this information to the city.

One citizen was concerned about trucks she has seen racing

and passing on double yellow lines. One citizen who has written to the governor wants something done before school is out in May. She has also called and voiced her opinion that the study should be done at all hours. The validity of the study would be in question if only taken during the day. She also hoped the study would include no passing zones. Citizens had signed the paper with her recommendations. The citizens expressed their concern for the safety of children, animals and wildlife.

One citizen also said that Ferron does not have a noise ordinance. The noise from the trucks can be heard two or three blocks up the street. One citizen said the coal trucks are not the only problem, but traffic problems occur on the side streets as well. One child addressed the citizens saying she fears for the safety of her five-year-old sister when she begins school next fall. One day at her bus stop as they exited the bus, a truck blew by and didn't heed the flashing red lights. Her sister will be using this bus stop next fall.

A citizen further described the situation at the bus stop saying at least once a month a car comes upon the school bus and skids to a stop. The bus stop is on a blind turn and 200 ft. around the corner is the bus stop. At least once a month a car or truck runs the school bus. The bus driver will not let the students off the bus until she is sure no one is coming, then she watches while they cross the road.

Another bus stop with approximately 15 children using it, is also in a 55 m.p.h. zone and is dangerous to the children at the stop. One citizen expressed their opinion that the truck drivers know when the cops are out and radio each other to watch for them.

Kent Larsen from the Ferron City Council asked Sheriff Guymon how many officers are out patrolling on a given night. Sheriff Guymon said, "There are three out every night. With cars in the north, south and central parts of the county. They could be here all night if someone calls and complains. If they see the cops they slow down. That was a stupid study."

Mayor Larsen said we need to voice our opinions and get a hold of our legislators. We need to change the law and give local government authority.

Sheriff Guymon said, "The traffic will continue to increase. You need to change the components of your study and take into consideration who is traveling the road."

A capacity crowd fills Ferron City Hall for a public hearing on the proposed Millsite State Park closure.

Ferron City Hall was the site of a public hearing on April 3 to discuss the proposed Millsite State Park closure. Members of the Utah State Parks Board and state parks officials were in attendance to talk about the issue. The room was filled to capacity with many people standing around the room and into the foyer area.

Ferron Mayor Garth Larsen opened the meeting by saying, "I hope that we will respect each others opinions and right to speak. I would like to introduce the director of state parks, Courtland Nelson, Tim Smith, Southeast Division manager; Steve Ogilvie, financial manager and Brad Johnson, our state representative, Commissioners Ira Hatch, Drew Sitterud and Commission Chairman, Randy Johnson, Mayors' Jackie Wilson from Huntington and Glen Johnson from Green River. Members of the state board are Scott Truman, Bill Hedden, Jeff Packer and Ron Taylor, park manager.

Courtland Nelson said, "I appreciate coming here tonight to discuss what's happened. We will have a power point presentation by Steve and discuss the financial situation. About three or four years ago the state legislature made a request for us to rank all parks. They did this for two reasons, we always have requests to add things to the state parks system and if we had an assigned process in place we could walk away from parks. They were ranked on such things as scenic parks, historical ratings and recreation and also the benefit they were to residents.

"We didn't want to have to do that. We were uncomfortable with it. We hoped the report would sit and die on the shelf, but it did not. One major event during the last 18 months was the cutback of $5 million from capital dollars. Then they held back another $1.1 million. Then in the last three days before the session ended the governor and staff were looking for ways to shave another $30-40 million off, because the expenses did not match the revenues coming in. There was not enough money for the budget to come together. So we took another cut of $500,000, with the language saying we would save $500,000 by reducing and closing parks. With that intent language, the reality as a manager was we had to determine what parks to close.

"We were already involved in the belt tightening process. We had reduced employees and we walked away from capital projects we had planned. We cut back on boating enforcement at the lakes. We were already involved in cutting back prior to the $500,000 hit. It's a difficult situation. We have until July 1 to look for alternative management. All of our board members are appointed; they are volunteers. They represent eight regions with one at large member. The proposal to them was to take advantage of ranking and financial information to decide which parks to close. We have been attending public meetings to hear the issues and the things we haven't thought of. The board will hear your comments, accept website comments and see your letters. I'm assuming nobody is here to say it's a good idea and I'll need to know which part of the United States I need to go to hide," said Nelson.

Ogilvie was next with the power point presentation. He said, "It is the intent by Dec. 1, 2002 to recommend parks for closure to meet the $500,000 reduction in the state parks budget. That's what we were told by the legislature. We are under a July 1 deadline for reduction because of our financial year which runs from July to July," Ogilvie went on to cover the cost saving measures the parks have already done which included loss of personnel in the Salt Lake Office, increased user fees, increased employee productivity, reduced services, reduced seasonal employee wages, frozen salary increases and vacancies left unfilled.

The parks on the closure list include: Fort Buenaventura in Ogden, Jordan River Parkway, which includes a golf course and trails, Millsite, Minersville which is a small boating lake, Otter Creek-Piute which is a high elevation lake for seasonal boating, and the elimination of a boating ranger at Pineview Reservoir.

Ogilvie said, "The decision on which parks to close had nothing to do with the quality of the park and the hard work of the employees."

Hedden spoke next saying, "I am very grateful to see people here and know you care. Our board is very concerned and this isn't what we want to be doing. I've enjoyed the comradery of the board. We don't want to be removing recreation opportunities and laying off employees. We are here because we care about your community and are not taking this lightly. There have been a series of cuts from the top to the local managers and seasonal workers. It is the recommendation for the board members to make a final decision in the best interest of the state system. The evaluation was not intended to target any particular park. We are taking the recommendation seriously, there are not many alternatives to meet the intent language of the legislature.

Packer said, "We are interested in creative ideas and your best thinking. We are glad to be here, but sorry we have to be here."

Truman said, "I spent 10 or 11 years on the city council in Ferron. I saw the heartache and pain the mayor went through. Millsite used to be a boating ramp and two pit toilets. It was not a good thing. We looked at what we could do. There was not much hope that the state parks would take responsibility for it. We got a call from Marv Jensen who said he wanted to come and take a look and the message was, 'Ferron City, show us how interested you are.' We cleaned up the park and took it a step further. State Parks had $50,000 which had to be matched. Through community development grants we got the match.

"Nielson Construction did the excavation and we bought a pavillion, brought in beach sand and we needed a water system. We found a tank down by Emery and it was brought to Millsite. The time was donated to put it in place. We also wanted a golf course. We went to state parks and told them we've done what you asked us to do; we're interested in having this as a state park. I've tried to be opened minded but, I'm not open minded. Because of what the people of Ferron did they should not walk away from Millsite as a state park," said Truman.

Mayor Larsen opened the meeting up at this point for comments from the audience. Those wishing to voice their opinion came to the front of the room. Paul Crawford said, "When I read about the Millsite closure, I thought about what had happened that a lot of people might not know. The citizens of Ferron watershed project were the original sponsors of recreation. We worked for water protection, flood protection and we worked with the Bureau of Land Management and the forest service on land treatment. We worked to provide fisheries and promote water for recreation. This was not our area of expertise so we approached Joe Hansen in early 1971 to see if they (state parks) might be interested in taking the project over. We started with $150,000 in the early 70s with federal money and matching with local in kind monies.

"The Ferron Canal and Reservoir Company had a small construction company to protect canals and they moved the old highway and build the road around the reservoir. We fully accepted responsibility to extend the boat ramp and to bring in top soil for the park. We did a lot of work. We had $66,000 left of the original money that could be used by the state parks if they took it over. It was almost 14 years later before a contract was signed. The telephone company laid the cable so there could be phone service at the park. People don't know the whole story and I have a problem with their saying they are abandoning it.

"There are a lot of people using the facilities, sometimes when the park is full people will park outside of the park and dispose of their sewer into the lake. This is the sole source of water for Ferron City," said Crawford.

Mark Justice spoke next saying, "How much of that $500,000 will you save by closing Millsite?" Nelson answered about a $24,000 savings. Justice then asked how much the park budget is overall each year. Nelson said they have a $22 million state park budget. Justice mentioned that county residents had contributed $100,000 toward the building of the golf course. He said, "It's shameful to close the park. A lot of people use this park. It is the state parks department and board's very mission to provide parks and recreation. Where's the sense in closing it for a $17,000 savings?"

Max Ralphs former mayor of Ferron said, "The Ferron citizens have been involved. They worked and sacrificed. When water was needed at the park this was put in place with no cost to parks and recreation. A lot of work was donated by every citizen in Ferron. They were all involved in one way or another. I don't think any park in the state of Utah has more involvement than this one does. This is a big mistake. They don't just hand out grants, a lot of work was done. It's tough to get money from the government. We were scared to death the first time we went. But we became friends. We are proud of the things that have been done at Millsite. Please reconsider your stand on taking it out of the parks system. You can operate it much cheaper than the city."

Commissioner Johnson spoke next, he said, "Closing the park is not an option and we hope to convince you of the error of your ways. We will not consider this as a commission. My case in point is that Utah is the third most urbanized state in the union. So the faces you see here are in the minority. We are overwhelmed by urban legislators. This park is constantly used and full and takes very little of your budget. It's a small wave in the pond. But closure would have a huge impact on the community. It wouldn't be the same. Speaking for the county commission we will keep it. Locking the gate is not an option and we would like to discuss this further if you don't come to your senses."

Sharmaine Sharp said, "This park is on public land. If the state can no longer provide financial support, maybe it should be turned back to the people. Volunteers help take care of roads and maybe they can volunteer to take responsibility for the park. People work to earn hunting licenses maybe they can work for fishing licenses. We might have to pay for the privilege and if we want our public lands we might have to volunteer as you did in the beginning of the park."

One citizen read a letter which had a lot of signatures from citizens around Ferron. They described Millsite as a safe place for seniors to go and enjoy family gatherings and closing it would deprive everyone of a place to enjoy.

The only seasonal employee at Millsite Lena Funk spoke next, she said, "I have worked at Millsite for 25 years. It's my park. I've pulled weeds, mowed lawns and did whatever it took. People come to Millsite to have a great time. Every time you come families are having a great time together. The people are important. Save Millsite, I will do anything to save it."

Park Manager Taylor spoke next, "I'm not surprised to see all of you here. It's a popular park with a heritage invested in it. Six years ago when I first came here. Millsite was on the list for expansion. Many parks have similar stories and the circumstances tear at my heart strings. When the manager of Scofield went to Starvation, Cody Patton, assistant manager assigned to Millsite went to Scofield and Millsite has not been covered as well since this combining of parks. Since the combining of Scofield, Millsite and Huntington I have been spread too thin. Millsite is a reflection of the staff and people involved. The campground hosts say it is a beautiful place. We raised $13,000 in revenue which is not significant. A lot of the people who visit Millsite don't pay a fee because they are young people of 62. We don't gain revenue from this use. But these people are just as important.

"It doesn't matter how much revenue is generated. Millsite is safe, clean and friendly. The fact that it is developed helps keep sedimentation out of the lake. Last winter with someone visiting the park every other day. We had two tables stolen. I am a scout leader and bring troops up here. I hope to continue to do so. We hope to convince the state legislature to save all of the parks, not just Millsite. It's better to have people come down here to an area that's developed than to have them in displaced camping. I have been overwhelmed by the phone calls, faxes and letters I've received these past two weeks. But the one that hit me the hardest was written by a little boy from Salt Lake that said, 'Dear Sir, Please don't close our parks," said Taylor.

Clyde Conover, former commissioner spoke next, "We took a trip to Washington and worked with the GCS and worked with Senator Moss. We worked together. You don't have to fight and argue to make a point. We're not going to close the park. We will work with the state parks board, and with Brad Johnson and the citizens; we will work as a group. I love this area and we will make it survive."

Mark H. Williams spoke next, "I am the OHV chairman for the state parks. Our board worked hard to get the forest service money to develop 370 miles of trail from Ferron to the mountain. Development has happened in stages from putting up signs and markers to the maps. We will soon begin advertising this trail. Millsite is the hub on this side of the mountain for access to the Arapeen trail. The Piute trail counters counted in 1995-23,000 riders, in 1998-41,000 riders, 1999-51,000 riders and in 2000-55,000 riders. People are looking for places to go, OHV destination spots. In the middle of the week Millsite is usually 70 percent full. I guarantee we can fill the park to capacity with OHV riders which will increase the revenue at the park. The motorized grant money from the state parks is still in place and applications need to be in by May 1. We have plenty of money."

Kent Petersen, former county commissioner spoke next, "I don't know, but I think Mark just offered us $17,000 in grant money. With the economy down, this is a poor time to take away recreation. We have donated a lot and it's not worthwhile to close it. The city built the golf course and a lot of people come down from the Wasatch Front and stay in the park and play golf. This closure would have a big impact on the golf course, it would be hard to keep operational.

"People in the state have the misperception that Emery County is rich. At one time we were pretty well off but that was when the power plants were new. The trucks you see hauling coal by here are bringing that coal from Sevier County to power plants owned by a multi-national company whose intent is to reduce their taxes every year by 7 percent and they have been very successful in doing that. We are strapped for money. Our local governments are much worse off than the legislature. I think you need to relook where to find the money to keep this park open."

Mayor Glen Johnson from Green River City spoke next, "We have enjoyed the relationship we have had with the state parks. We attempted to build a golf course and decided it was way too much money. We formed a partnership with state parks and completed the golf course. A partnership can work. Green River City helped complete a new clubhouse for the state parks which they wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise. Don't close the park or it will go away. Ron does a great job. We support Millsite and if you need help from Green River City. We will support it with our tax dollars to keep it open."

Commissioner Sitterud said, "I had a lot of calls from people who would have liked to attend the meeting, but had other obligations and asked me to voice their support. I support Millsite and we won't let this close."

Rep. Brad Johnson spoke next, "I compliment you for being interested. I don't support what's happened and I am committed to keeping it open. There are ways it can be done. This was an unusual legislative session. The Olympics turned out well, but there was a three week interruption. There was a budget shortfall and in the final hours a mistake was made. It didn't go through the regular process. I've talked to others today and visited with them and I know we'll have some influence. We'll think of ways to fix this. The state parks board does a great job and I'd like to thank them. I totally believe this park should be kept open. Millsite has a great record and is really popular; it stacks up pretty well.

"I am committed to help you find a way to keep it open. The legislature never did intend that a park like Millsite be closed. It was done to balance the budget. This is not a done deal. I'm almost scared to ask, but what if we didn't give an exemption in park fees for seniors. Most of these people can afford these fees better than young families," said Johnson.

The next citizen said her family uses the facility a lot and Ferron needs to pull together as a community. "I would be willing to pay more for a day use fee. One complaint we have is there is very little grass on the west side.For a higher user fee, you could use the whole park and generate more money. Also, the younger generation could become involved in volunteering at the park and serve an internship working free of charge to gain experience and possibly explore careers in the forest service and other related fields."

Kent Larsen, Ferron City councilman spoke next, "We appreciate the board for coming down and discussing these important issues. We have to scratch to make the budget on the golf course. I don't think we can make it without Millsite. We ask people at the golf course what brings them to Millsite and they say they love coming here because it is out in the open. I think it would be an injustice to us and to the people of the Wasatch Front to close Millsite. We have a low tax base and we are providing recreation not only for us but to those up north. Utah had a successful Olympics and those facilities will now be available for Salt Lake's use now that they are gone. They get those facilities and what do we get, a closure. We don't deserve a park closure and I want the citizens of Emery County to know we'll do everything to keep it open."

Mayor Larsen said, "We have run out of time for comments, if you didn't get to speak you can still send in faxes and letters or e-mails to voice your opinion. This shows how much interest there is for Millsite to remain open. I would like to read a letter from John and Sandy Knowlton from Salt Lake. 'We are writing to voice our displeasure with plans to close Millsite. We come to Millsite three or four times a year to camp, golf and fish. It is an importatnt asset and closure for a few dollars is ridiculous. If Utah is a 'pretty, great state' then the park system must find a way to save it.' We have heard from many people like that. We provide coal for the power plants. The state of Utah depends on these power plants. We put up with the coal traffic so Utah can have electricity. The power plants are centrally assessed which provides tax dollars for all of Utah. The coal mines contribute mineral lease money to benefit the whole state. Keep our park open. Pay us back for what we give. The whole Wasatch Front benefits from our great rural setting; our park and our mountains. What we need now is for the state parks and the legislature to help us keep it."

A public information meeting on the San Rafael Swell National Monument Concept will be held on April 11 at 7 p.m. in the Museum of the San Rafael in Castle Dale. This meeting will focus on Monument grazing issues. Speakers include Garfield County Commissioner Dell LeFevre and BLM Range Specialist Karl Ivory. Mr. LeFevre will speak on his experiences as a grazing permittee in the Grand Staircase, both before and after the area was designated a National Monument. Mr. Ivory will speak on the BLM Rangeland Health Standards and Guidelines. As in previous Monument meetings, public comments will be taken. The meeting is sponsored by the Emery County Public Lands Council, Emery County Farm Bureau and the Emery County Economic Development Council.

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April 9, 2002
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