'Frontier Area' as New Part of Monuments

By Averitt, Neil | Deseret News (Salt Lake City), June 19, 2017 | Go to article overview

'Frontier Area' as New Part of Monuments


Averitt, Neil, Deseret News (Salt Lake City)


By Neil Averitt

The U.S. Department of the Interior is reviewing 27 recently designated national monuments, and it has an opportunity to create something new and good.

For a generation now, the country has been locked in a battle between "wilderness" and "development" in managing the public lands of the desert Southwest. But what we really need are new tools and concepts that will break the deadlock and serve a wider variety of users.

A promising new kind of mixed-use designation would be a "frontier area." This would re-create a segment of the original 19th century Western frontier. Rather than just preserving empty land, as a conventional national monument does, it would present the distinctive mix of settlement and wilderness that marked the pioneer West. The area would be established in a scenic valley that is largely left in its natural state. Along it would be a string of small towns and farming areas, built new on the simple but far-reaching conditions that period architecture is used, and that cars and electricity are banned. The result would be a string of 19th-century towns in an extended 19th-century landscape.

This frontier area will provide a unique window into the past. The towns will allow us to see the kerosene-lit, horse-drawn world of a previous generation, on a landscape-wide scale that is large enough to step into and experience as an entirely alternative way of doing things. The towns will also support a variety of outdoor activities. Visitors can travel among them by foot or horse or can use them as a base for exploring the surrounding wilderness, never too far from support services but at all times very far from the modern world.

Such an area would benefit many different groups.

Outdoor recreationists would find the towns perfect stopover points for a weeklong hike, or for more extended travels through rugged country. Other, more specialized users could use the towns as bases for hunting or fishing trips in season.

Historic preservationists will find in the towns a way to rediscover the intangible half of the historic record. Today's beautifully conserved buildings can tell only part of the story. …

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