A scenic road destined to become the "Utah Adventure Highway" is an adventure in the making with soldiers employing wartime construction techniques and even using explosives to build duck ponds.
Utah Army National Guard soldiers have been building a 4.2-mile section of gravel road just north of Strawberry Reservoir. The road will eventually tie in with a recreation highway that will cross scenic forest areas from Spanish Fork Canyon to the Mirror Lake Highway, according to National Forest Service spokesman Norm Huntsman.Driving for pleasure is the most pursued recreational activity in mountain areas, Huntsman said, and eventually the gravel road will become a highway that traverses the state from St. George to near Evanston.
More than 400 troops from Murray and Mt. Pleasant have undertaken the project as part of their annual training. Sixty bulldozers, backhoes, scrapers and belly dump earth movers from the 1457th Engineer Battalion's headquarters in American Fork have been working around-the-clock since June 10 and plan to finish the road segment Thursday.
Maj. Bob Nelson described the project as having a double benefit for the state because the training dollars spent will also pay for the road segment, which would otherwise cost more than $1 million to build.
Capt. Eric Rydbom said the project provides specific wartime training. Soldiers that would be building and tearing up supply roads in battle are practicing their countermobility techniques by building and then removing road barriers while they work. Demolition crews have used explosives to blast donut-shaped contours that will be developed as duck ponds.
Huntsman said the duck ponds and other features of the road segment accommodate federal wetlands requirements for the forest. The new road will also replace other less reliable roads and sheepherder trails that damage the environment by causing erosion and interfering with wildlife.
Rydbom described the road as being good enough when it's finished to carry an entire armored division, which Huntsman translates as meaning the gravel and eventually paved road will be a reliable recreational highway.
Huntsman said the road routes traffic away from environmentally sensitive areas and will be open only seasonally. "We won't open the road as early in the spring as weather would allow to protect elk calving areas."