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INTERSECTION SPURS A MEETING OF MINDS

The tiny cabin community of Silver Fork lies nestled in the lush, breezy mountainside of Big Cottonwood Canyon. A fairy tale setting, maybe, but a perfect place to live it's not.

There is only one access road to the neighborhood open in the winter. A county road, it is not maintained or plowed for the com-mu-ni-ty through snowy months. The main state highway through the canyon, however, is fully maintained.Over its 60-year existence, the state highway has been repeatedly layered and asphalted, causing the highway to sit about four feet higher than the county road that leads into the Silver Fork community.

Silver Fork is approximately 11 miles from the mouth, and nearly 145 cabins hide there among the trees surrounding the canyon's main highway. Though only a handful of those cabins are occupied year-round, homeowners say they deserve the same attention from the county as anyone else.

Residents have battled the difficult intersection for years. At a 125-degree entrance angle to the state highway, the road's awkward position diminishes a driver's visibility, making the turn onto the highway a scary one.

"The only time you really know if someone is coming or not is at night when they have their lights on," said Avis Light. She and her husband, Jim, have lived in the canyon for 30 years, operating and living in the Silver Fork Lodge that sits on the highway near the entrance to the cabin neighborhood.

After selling the lodge two years ago, the Lights moved into a cabin deep in the heart of the community.

"We never used to use that road, and we were working so much that we never noticed the problem," she said. Now, she says, getting in and out of the area is "just awful."

The Solitude Improvement District is currently upgrading sewer lines in the area. With all that extra dirt and fill around, the Lights thought now would be the perfect time to approach the county with a plea for help.

They wrote a letter to the County Commission, asking for repairs on the road before the snow season. And, much to their surprise, the county responded - immediately.

"I thought it would take forever to get their attention," said Jim Light.

But county officials took immediate action.

"It is a danger any time you come out of that area," said Tosh Kano, division director of public works operation. He visited the Lights just days after receiving their letter. "Any time you have a 125-degree fork like that, engineering-wise you would rather have a 90-degree one."

The county would realign the road with the state highway, using the extra fill from the sewer project to boost the county road to be level with the highway, said Kano.

One obstacle remains. "We have to check with the property owner who lives directly south of the intersection," said Kano. "The work will directly impact the driveway and the walkway."

That property owner has been out of town for several weeks. Kano hopes to contact her soon, so construction can begin and end before winter. If there is opposition to the work, however, delays may be inevitable.

"We want to accommodate everyone," said Kano.

But the Lights, and many of their neighbors, want the problem taken care of.

"In winter, the snow banks on the corner reach 10 feet high. You just can't see anything," said Avis. "You're taking your life in your hands just going out."