Former Thistle residents hoping to finish a monument project dedicated to the old town of Thistle may find their path again blocked one of their own - in the person of Shirrel Young.
Young, who still lives in Thistle - which was destroyed by flooding in 1983 - argues that he and his wife actually have the lease rights for property where the county has started construction of a Thistle informational kiosk along U.S. 89.Members of the Utah County Commission recently amended the county's sign ordinance to allow crews to build the informational sign/monument on what they say is county property, and signed the building permit application that will make the construction possible.
"Unless you dig (initial foundations) up and move them to a legitimate site, I may have to file suit. I've adequately warned the commission about this already," said Young, who says he just wants the monument moved from his property, not stopped altogether.
Young leased property from the county in 1990 and holds its rights for 25 years. But County Planning Director Jeff Mendenhall said the property is next to the proposed monument site, not on it.
Current plans call for an outdoor, overhead-enclosed kiosk similar in style to many highway rest stops. County Engineer Clyde Naylor said that posted information on the monument would include the town's history, as well as the history of the slide and nearby operations by the Denver & Rio Grande-Western Railroad. Plans that have been scrapped at one time included a picnic area, and there have been as many as four other delays, including the fact that the county's sign ordinance didn't allow for informational signs on county property.
Former Thistle residents, who call themselves the Committee for Thistle, the Lost Town, have been trying to get the project done for three years now. Committee members have raised $6,800 for the project in donations from nearly 200 people but remain frustrated at the constant delays.
"It would be nice to get this built before we lose any more of our committee members," said former resident Bea Jex, who now lives in Spanish Fork. Jex and her husband came up with the monument proposal after seeing a similar project in Kelly, Wyo., which is also on the site of a historic mudslide.
Twelve years ago, a giant landslide blocked the Spanish Fork River about a mile below Thistle. Water backed up and eventually created a huge lake. Within a few days the entire town was inundated with water, destroying every home. Several former residents filed suit against Denver & Rio Grande-Western Railroad officials, arguing that a cut the company made in the toe of the slide was partly to blame for the disaster. The residents said the railroad knew the slide was moving yet failed to take preventative measures to stop it.
After several years of court proceedings, a jury finally ruled that the railroad was partially to blame for the 1983 landslide that created a 200-foot- deep lake where the community had been, and awarded the 13 former Thistle property owners more than $1 million in damages.