Mill Creek is being loved to death. A few years ago it was still a local secret.
Today it is crowded, abused, and filthy. Can we let it go on like this? Yes, but what would that say about us? What would it say about Moab if we continue to neglect this treasured oasis, complacently watching while it degenerates into a squalid, sordid mess? In a nutshell, it would say that we don’t care. But that’s not true. I care and so do most of you.
It’s time we took control of the situation. How can we do this? I’m not exactly sure, but I’m trying. I’ve brought it to the attention of the City and County councils. I’ve set up a web site called savemillcreek.org. The web site contains a number of documents that apply to Mill Creek. This is important because we can’t make good decisions if we’re ignorant. The web site also has a planning exercise called “What If?”
It poses a range of ideas and outcomes based on “What If?” scenarios. What if Mill Creek keeps going like it has? What if an entrance fee is charged? What if it becomes a park? What if something is done to the dump site when it’s closed? It’s time to start talking about this stuff.
Over the years many people have tended to Mill Creek, making it nicer and trying to keep it that way. The splendor of the place motivates them. Unfortunately, others don’t always seem to feel the same. Go to the Powerhouse parking lot and walk 100 feet up the trail. The ground is littered with dog waste. Humans go in the bushes. Walk a little further and pick up the plastic cups, soda cans, beer bottles, and toilet paper. Up in the canyon check for new graffiti scratched or painted over the ancient rock art. The volunteers who pick up the dog waste and human excrement, the fast food containers, the cans and cigarette butts, the broken glass – the ones who clean the graffiti and haul out the garbage – they can’t keep up.
This mess comes from two sources. The “traditional” impacts come from locals, especially irresponsible dog owners and callow youth with entitled attitudes who think they own the place. The new impacts are from tourists. In the last few years Mill Creek has appeared in guide books, newspapers, and the Internet. Look up Mill Creek on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean. Together, these two factors have combined to make Mill Creek into a place that locals avoid. I’ve talked to a lot of parents who won’t take their children there anymore. Fresh, cool, running water, practically in town, in a gorgeous desert canyon and they won’t take their kids there because it’s too gross and nasty? That’s just wrong.
A few weeks ago I reread a history of Grand County. I was struck by the long tradition of ranching and the short, but important, mining era. The economic philosophy in those days was more about resource extraction and less about scenic attraction. But it’s not like that anymore. We’re a tourist town now. Our health, wealth, stability, and well-being depend on serving people from around the world who come here to enjoy the unparalleled beauty of our homeland. Saving Mill Creek isn’t something that needs doing just so the locals have a safe, clean place to hang out. It’s the canary in the coal mine for our economy and culture. What happens in Mill Creek is going to say a lot about all of us as the years go by.
What can you do? I suggest two things for now. First, add your ideas and comments. This is important because the situation is too big for any person or small group to do it justice. Second, let your City and County council people know that this is an issue you care about. A lot of them will be running for office this fall and they will be making the decisions. If you think Mill Creek deserves better than it’s getting, let them hear about it.