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Bridal Veil falls on hard times

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PROVO — It's touted as a Utah County natural attraction, but the only thing Bridal Veil Falls seems to be attracting lately is the local tax collector.

This year is no exception.

Property owner David Grow anted up a five-year $25,000 tax payment last month to keep the spectacular waterfall off the tax sale auction block, a ritual he has been following since a 1996 avalanche destroyed the family gift shop and tram that lifted visitors to the top of the 600-foot falls.

"The funny thing is, the avalanche came down on the first day of January," Grow said. "They (the tax assessors) told me I had to pay an entire year's worth of taxes, because the tax year starts from midnight on Dec. 31."

Grow said the continuing full-value tax assessment is made even more laughable because the frontage road to the falls is closed during the winter months for highway safety reasons.

"I'm not angry. They're taxing that property way, way high, is all," Grow said. "It's just such a blatant discrepancy between the tax assessment and the reality."

Four parcels totaling a little over 18 acres are listed with Utah County under David Grow's name. The family has owned the Bridal Veil Falls property for 28 years.

Utah County Assessor Chris Poulsen said the property is being assessed at $137,524 based on the estimated current market value.

Until the avalanche, the family ran a gift shop and snack bar at the bottom of the mountain and kept a tram running to the top of the mountain where there was a restaurant for a short time.

Grow says he would love to see the area restored and developed, but he simply doesn't have the cash to do it properly.

"There's not that many places that can say they have a 600-foot waterfall within four miles of the city, but you need someone with $4 million to $5 million dollars to spend," Grow said.

Grow said Max Mitchell, Provo city parks director, has indicated the city is interested in the falls, but so far, there has been no formal purchase commitment on the part of the city.

Mitchell said the city is definitely interested. The city is currently pursuing a $1 million federal Scenic Byways grant that would pay for extending the Provo Parkway Trail and add picnic areas in the Bridal Veil Falls location. He said it's even possible the tram could be put back into operation.

"We certainly do have an interest in the falls. We have a partnership with the Utah Landmark Preservation group, and we have a master design drawn up," Mitchell said. Mitchell said he realizes that Grow is being left hanging as the city and preservation group work out the details.

Real estate broker Tom Heal was hired at one time to market the falls. The idea was to sell it as a unique, albeit expensive, gift for a wealthy bridegroom to offer his blushing bride. But with a $1.7 million price tag, the plan was left begging at the altar.

The local Rotary Club has offered its assistance to restore the bridge that used to span the river from the parking lot to the hillside. The bridge would again allow visitors to get close enough to feel the mist bouncing off the rock cliff.

Grow said he is currently involved in conversations with two associates of a major local business who want to buy the land, but there's been no solid offer made.

In the meantime, Grow says he plans to continue his ritual of paying the taxes on the last day possible each year.

E-MAIL: haddoc@desnews.com