Two years since the 2014 Recapture Canyon protest

by Bill Boyle
It has been two years since a large group of local residents and others participated in a high-profile protest in Recapture Canyon. In the two years since then, there has been a federal trial, hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses, several acquittals, and even the incarceration, however brief, of two local residents.
Despite this, we are still no closer to a resolution of the issues that triggered the protest. And that is a shame.
Recapture Canyon still remains closed to vehicular traffic.
One thing is for sure, whoever came up with the idea of putting a trail through the northern portion of Recapture Canyon was brilliant. The canyon is spectacular, with remarkable ruins, beautiful wetlands, a stunning canyon rim, and peace and quiet.
A quick trip through the canyon would be wonderful, with a logical beginning and ending point at the Blanding Visitor Center. Visitors could enjoy the canyon on a trail that would be much easier to manage than trails just about anywhere else in our massive county.
The visitor center could provide information, permits, loading and unloading points, and a comfortable area to manage a memorable trip.
About ten years ago, two Blanding residents jumped the gun and began working on the trail before they received official approval from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It has all gone downhill from there.
The BLM closed the canyon to vehicular access and eventually fined the two men $35,000 for the unauthorized construction.
In the subsequent years, San Juan County continued to push to open a trail, but after a seemingly never-ending series of delays, a large group of local residents lost patience with the process and decided to protest.
Unfortunately, there appears to be no movement for a long-term resolution. That is a shame.
Ferd Johnson, of the San Juan Water Conservancy District, uses the two-track road in the canyon in order to maintain the pipeline. The two-mile maintenance road along the pipeline was almost overgrown, but the San Juan County brush hog recently cleared out the trail.
There may be use of the pipeline in the near future, as Recapture Reservoir rose by six feet in the past week due to increased runoff after the Indian Creek tunnel was opened.
“I see hikers down there quite a bit,” said Johnson. “I guess they just want to see what is the problem. In fact, eight mules came through the canyon just last week. They look like they loved it.”

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