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Alpine park’s future is as rocky as old wall

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ALPINE — Fragments of rock wall standing in the middle of the scrub oak and sagebrush on Alpine's northeast corner may seem not worth saving.

Even those on an Alpine citizens committee commissioned to study the future of 253 acres known as Lambert Park aren't sure they should save it.

The walls are less than a house but more than a corner. On one stone, the initials "R.H. Sep 20, 19010" are scrawled. (It's the year after 19-oh-9.)

It's clear there were once two levels of a home that might have an interesting story or two to tell.

And it does.

The summer home of George Cannon Lambert once provided desperately needed employment for those who could haul rocks and pound nails during the Depression.

At one time, miners stayed in the basement, rising to the tolling of the midnight bell on the Lambert Ranch barn to go to work.

Until Lambert, a publisher and former guard for early LDS Church leader Brigham Young, died in 1917, the Lambert ranch was intermittently his retreat and later home to a series of renters who enjoyed the beauty of the mountainside but did little to maintain the farm land and orchards.

The lumber has long since been carried away by vandals.

The alfalfa and grain fields are gone. The apple, cherry, peach and nut orchards were burned down to safeguard nearby farms.

Without constant irrigation, the rocky, porous soil near Lambert Park grows nothing.

Colorful blue rocks, cut from the walls in the nearby Box Elder Canyon, are mostly buried in the ground. They were "borrowed" by residents who needed them to build their septic tanks in the 1930s and 1940s.

What remains are the walls and the bright red poppies that bloom every May and attract visitors from all over Utah Valley. But even those are threatened, said Rulon C. McDaniel, who once hunted lizards and toads on the property and who has laboriously researched the Lambert family history.

"People come up and cut the heads off, and that prevents the reseeding, that along with the drought," McDaniel said. "We need to take steps to protect them and everything else around them."

Scott Frazier and the 25 members of his committee are trying to do just that.

They've already met with the community to try to figure out just what people want.

"Mostly, everybody agrees. They want it preserved in its natural state. They don't want pavilions and playground equipment. They want to keep it a place to hike and bike and walk."

Some want to ban motorized vehicles from the park while others say they moved to Alpine because the park offered opportunities for four-wheeling and motorized exploration.

Jannicke Brewer, chairman of Alpine's Planning Commission, wants to make sure the park isn't overrun.

"We kind of like to keep it Alpine's little secret," she said.

Over the years, numerous Scout troops and dens have used the northern portion — known mostly as the Bowery Park — for overnighters and day adventures.

Many use the rodeo grounds and arena. Most simply enjoy the wildlife and open air.

"It used to be, when I was younger, that once I found it, I never could find my way home. Now it's become a lot more accessible," Brewer said. "It's now time to plan."

Mayor Phil Barker said Alpine city bought the ground in 1957 for $9,000 and named it a city park in 1994. The city intends to hold onto it, though developers would love to have it. Former Mayor Don Watkins estimated the land value today is around $250 million.

Recommendations from the citizens committee are due to the planning commission within the next few weeks.

E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com