96 South Main Street, PO Box 77, Nephi, Utah 84648 - Voice: 435 623-0525 - FAX: 435 623-4735

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  • City council expresses concerns over possible land purchase in Salt Creek Canyon

By Myrna Trauntvein
Times-News Correspondent

A family has an interest in purchasing some property in Salt Creek Canyon east of Nephi and would also like to purchase the retention basin, known as Bob's Pond.
Ray Morley, Spanish Fork, representing the interests of the family, attended Nephi City Council meeting to discuss some ideas his group has about improving the property there and, possibly, developing it further in the future.
"We are interested in the property which borders Ockey's recreation area," said Morley.
The land under discussion is east of Bob's Pond, as it is locally known. It is in the vicinity of what used to be a KOA which has also been known as Big Mountain Campground.
It was established in 1970 by Jim and Carolyn Ockey and is located just five miles east of Nephi.
When they were doing their "due diligence" on the property which is for sale, they talked to the person working with Kent L. Jones, Utah State Engineer.
That person, Chuck Williamson, who is over the Utah Lake, Richfield, and Cedar City regions, had suggested that the city and the Morley group might cooperatively work to dredge the retention basin.
That would improve the pond as a fishery since, at this point, it had been silted in.
"We wondered if you would be willing to join with us or would be interested in selling us the 14.75 acres the city owns," said Morley.
The property for sale is long and narrow and the silt pond is the widest part.
There is also a lot of deadfall from the fire of 2009 which burned up alongside Salt Creek. There are also a lot of willows which are growing up along the stream. Both need to be rehabilitated.
With the property, there is 88 acre-feet of water. His group would like to have the city take over the rights to that water and put it into the city culinary system.
There had been some discussion as to whether that water was actually available.
"After going over the claim with the state I am convinced it does exist," Morley said.
He said that his family was large and that, for the last 35-years, it had become difficult to find a place for a family reunion.
Lisa Brough, council member, asked if the main purpose of the proposal was to provide a recreation site for the family of Morley.
"We would like to build a nice lodge on the property for our family and to lease," he said. "In the future we would like to build some cabins and would rent them out as well. But, primarily, the land would be used for a cow and calf operation."
Morley said the group would also like to develop some trails for ATV riding.
The property would also be fenced, he said. One reason for that would be so the cattle would not wander onto SR 132.
Wade Gee, council member, said he would be concerned about maintaining access for the road which traveled through the property. It was a county road, he said, and said that the city did absolutely want to maintain access.
Morley said his group was exercising due diligence on the property. That means they are taking caution, performing calculations, reviewing documents, walking the property, and essentially doing homework for the property before actually making the purchase.
If there are too many issues with the property, then his group can cancel the purchase agreement and look for a better property.
He said it had been explained that the sides of the creek also needed to be enhanced and stabilized. Soil taken from the dredging of the pond could be placed along the banks of the creek in places where they were washing away which would stabilize the edges of the creek.
He said that, in talking with Williamson, he had determined that 75- to 85 percent of the willows growing in and along the creek and in and along the pond could be eliminated.
There were several issues that needed to be addressed, he said. One was the deadwood, another was the control of noxious weeds, another was the overgrowth of willows, and a big concern was erosion.
Morley was under the impression that the creek was no longer a good fishery.
"There are native browns (trout) in the creek," said Greg Rowley, council member. "It is tough to get into the creek, access is tough, but there are fish."
Morley said he was at the meeting to get the feelings and access the attitude of the council toward the proposal.
"We have a lot of grandkids who need work," said Morley. "We may need some equipment to dredge the pond but we have trucks."
He asked if the city was interested in having the road fenced but leaving good access.
Rowley said the city has had a lot of opportunity to enhance recreation but finances were tight. However, he said, he for one, would be willing to open the budget and look at what could be done.
"I am not here to ask for money," said Morley. "We could, perhaps, have the city get a track hoe up there to help."
The Corp of Engineers would need to be involved, said Randy McKnight, city administrator.
It was suggested that not only were willows growing along the creek but that there was also tamarisk. Tamarisk is a shrub or small tree, of Eurasia, having scale like leaves and clusters of pink flowers that has naturalized in the southwestern U.S and is now considered a noxious weed.
Nephi Irrigation Company would be interested in any project that would interrupt or disturb the stream flow, said Don Ball.
Chad Brough, former mayor, was present with a group of Boy Scouts. He said he was concerned about the public's right to have access.
"That road is the road to Gravel Springs," he said. "It looks to me like this project would take away public access."
Beaver higher above the pond had built dams and that had an effect on the creek, said Brough.
"That pond is a real good place to fish," he said.
He was in favor of maintaining the right of the public to use the creek and the pond for recreational fishing.
Morley said the group he was representing would have an interest in the creek for a two-mile stretch. The pond was right in the middle of the property the group was proposing to purchase.
He said he would appreciate receiving an answer from the council concerning the proposal after they had an opportunity to discuss it.
L. Brough said the council would likely have many more questions for Morley as they mulled over what had been proposed.