The beauty of Rock Canyon in Provo is known around the world. Local students flock to it for hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking and camping every day of the week, and the canyon has had visitors from as far away as Austria and France. It is almost literally our own back yard, located just behind the Provo LDS Temple — a five to fifteen minute drive from downtown Orem, Provo, Pleasant Grove, Springville, and many other local cities. But what many people don’t know is that this land is privately owned by several people. One of them, Richard Davis, would like to see the iconic Red Slab — very popular with rock climbers and visible from the freeway- reduced to chunks of rock for landscaping along with the rest of the entire south cliff face.
Davis has been quoted in the media saying he’d be just fine with someone buying the land from him at a reasonable price. In reality, he bought the mining rights to the 85 acres for $100,000 in 1998 — and now will not sell it for less than millions of dollars. “We make an offer, he makes an offer back, and that’s where we are now,” Senator John Valentine, partial owner of Rock Canyon, told the Daily Herald in April. Valentine is a major part of the effort to spare Rock Canyon from quarrying.
Davis has made several attempts to quarry the canyon since 2003, when he illegally excavated some rocks from the cliff face without municipal approval. Most recently, in February 2009, he has applied to operate a rock quarry at ten hour days during weekdays, using up to twelve trucks through the local residential neighborhood. He has attempted to assure the public that the operation will not be very loud and will spare the most-used parts of the canyon, as well as having no impact on the beauty of the canyon. He argues that the asphalt trail is not used much by the general public.
The general public begs to differ.
According to about two thousand surveys collected at the canyon by everyday users over two weekends, the asphalt trail is used as commonly if not more so than any other trail in the canyon. Property owners who live close to the canyon protest that the noise of blasting rock with dynamite, the gigantic mining vehicles, and the massive clouds of dust they generate would be unacceptable. Regular visitors also bemoan the damage Davis’ attempted 2003 excavation has already done to the canyon, and decry the idea that removing an entire cliff face from the renowned mountain side will not impact its aesthetic value.
Red Slab, LLC, is the major driving force behind the preservation of Rock Canyon. Other companies, such as The Monogram Station in Mapleton, have thrown their support behind the preservation efforts. The Save Rock Canyon Facebook group currently has over 2,900 members. But will it be enough? ?Advocates say the threat is very serious, and unless public awareness of the impending doom of Rock Canyon and the legal efforts to save it are backed by the entire community, we could soon be looking not at a beautiful cliff face, but a pile of gravel. Until the mining application was purchased, “no one really took (the threat) seriously,” said Sean Egli, founder of the Facebook group and advocate of preserving Rock Canyon.
Recently, Provo councilman Steve Turley made it clear that he intends to buy a 2,500 acre area of Diamond Fork canyon, regardless of the owner’s reluctance to sell. The debt accrued to keep their land in their hands is crippling thier efforts, and the land where several of the land owner’s relatives are buried is now being threatened.
Utah County’s canyons are unique and precious to its inhabitants. Many see the attempts to buy up and sell our recreational treasures as pernicious acts of greed. The only thing that can truly save the land from destruction and/ or development is the action of the community.
For more information on saving Rock Canyon, visit www.preserverockcanyon.com