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Olympic flame rekindles Avon Road hopes

Avon resident Guy Ray Pulsipher can see the lights at the Powder Mountain Ski Resort from his home. But if he wants to go there, it's a long trip.

That distance could be shortened if the mountain pass, known locally as Avon Road, were upgraded to provide year-round passage through the South Canyon of Cache Valley and Weber County.The idea has been stalled in the past because of financial constraints and environmental concerns, but has found new popularity in anticipation of the 2002 Olympics.

Pulsipher, a Cache County councilman and lifelong resident of Avon, said the possibility of developing a passenger-worthy road out of the gravel one there now needs to be explored.

"It would take half the distance to get to the Ogden Valley," Pulsipher said. "I think it is eventually going to come. I'd like to see it improved."

Cache Chamber of Commerce director Jay Clark said the improvements would help lure business to Cache Valley from nearby Olympic venues.

"There's no way we are going to get more events in Cache Valley, so we may as well make it more accessible and take advantage of the tourism this way," he said.

But the Utah Department of Transportation has been trying to turn more roads over to cities and counties, and state construction money is already spread thin by I-15 reconstruction, making the Avon Road less likely.

"I think, if it goes, it has to be a state venture because they've got the money - we don't," Pulsipher said.

Snow forces the closure of the road during the winter and even during the summer it is difficult to traverse the pass without a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Ted Seeholzer, owner of Beaver Mountain Ski Area, said his resort would benefit from an improved road, but questions the intangible costs of such a project.

"What about the quality of life?" he asked.

Seeholzer said he is not opposed to growth, and, as a member of the Citizen's Advisory Team, he supports the controversial Logan Canyon highway expansion project.

But he said the road through Sardine Canyon is fine and there's not enough money for the improvements now.

Even with improvements, Cache County Executive Lynn Lemon said, geography may keep the Avon Road from ever being viable.

"On the Weber County side there are several really steep, sharp, hairpin curves and turns," Lemon said. "That would be the most difficult part to keep open during the wintertime."

Logan Mayor Doug Thompson said people on the Weber County side of the canyon are pushing for the road. They want Cache Valley business to come into the Liberty, Eden and Powder Mountain area. But he said it would have a dramatic environmental impact.

"There would be a horrendous impact," he said. "In order to have passenger traffic, they would have to change the slope of the hill, and the Forest Service doesn't even want to talk about it."

Ruth Monahan, district ranger of the Ogden Ranger District, said the road improvements haven't come up in recent discussions, but the environmental, wildlife and water impact would have to be considered.