As I read the newspapers, listen to citizens at council meetings and public forums, and visit with neighbors in my district, I have to come to the conclusion that things really haven’t changed all that much. It brings back fond memories of an historical musical comedy that Steve and I co-produced; it recreates the life experience in early 1900s Grand County.
The lyrics of a song from this musical depict various interests of several groups of townspeople. “We need a road that goes up on the mountain, over to the basin where the miners pick. We need a road that’s better than the old one to bring the gold down and make us all rich.” Another group wants a better school “to teach the little children how to cipher figures and how to read a book.” A third group seeks to support the arts and recreation by building a “hall where music can lift us, hearts can be healed and dreams are born.”
The Moab area at the turn of the century attracted a diverse group of people from various walks of life. These settlers came from distant countries, possessed distinctive cultures, and had widely differing world views – and their concerns are very similar to those we face today. They worried about the economy and needing better roads to support it. The debate in that early time was where to put their meager resources and limited energy: building a road alongside the Colorado River toward Cisco or continually rebuilding the prone-to-wash-out road to Thompson. A significant expense at the time was building and maintaining the road to Miners Basin.
Environmental issues of livestock and timber management occupied a good portion of their planning efforts. Some felt that underground mining operations were depleting timber resources. As the livestock industry gathered momentum, others worried about the quality and safety of drinking water.
Schools and funding them were another concern of these early citizens. They celebrated significant milestones: classes were divided into grade/age levels (1901), a high school curriculum was organized and offered (1902), and a two-room high school building was built (1904).
These early times even saw an enterprising individual with dreams of building a successful tourism business of riverboat excursions ending in a luxury spa/hotel experience. Unfortunately the boat’s maiden voyage ended when the propellers got ripped off in a channel ill-fitted for the steamboat.
These early citizens of Grand County faced challenging issues that should feel very familiar to all of us. They faced them with courage and commitment; they found solutions together. As these good people were over 100 years ago, I remain committed to finding solutions that preserve and build our economy, shore up our schools, promote recreation and the arts, and support the infrastructure needed to make it all happen. Returning to the lyrics of the song I mentioned above, “Moab is a town that has some real potential.” I have a deep affection for Grand County. I feel honored to call it my home.