Tuesday, June 08, 2010

New Developments On and Around Malan's Basin Property

Chris Peterson continues to keep us guessing.

By Dan Schroeder

I've just posted an update on the Sierra Club web site (Update on Cleared Routes, June 2010 ) regarding recent activities on and around the Malan's Basin property.

1. There's a relatively new chainsawed ski route that hasn't been reported here before. It descends gradually from the base of Malan's Falls along the north-facing slope, then rounds the corner and continues descending the west-facing slope between Waterfall Canyon and Strong's Canyon. Part of this route was cut last year and the rest was cut a couple of months ago. To get to it from Malan's Basin, however, you would have to descend the very steep gulch that lies just south of the waterfall.

2. Chris Peterson has purchased the 7-acre parcel of land immediately east of the 29th Street trailhead parking area. This parcel was previously owned by the Malan/Rasmussen family (under the name Malan Religious Foundation), and is zoned for multi-family residential development. Ironically, Peterson has created an entity called "Saving Our Foothill Property LLC" which is the recorded owner of this property.

3. The Malan Religious Foundation still owns an additional 40 acres somewhat farther south, spanning the mouth of Waterfall Canyon. However, Peterson paid the property taxes on this land (just under $4000) last December, and the county plat maps now show that Saving Our Foothill Property has "claims" against these parcels.

Readers are invited, of course, to speculate on the meaning of all this.


Danny said...

My guess is Chris Peterson is buying the foothills to use as a trading card for other land that he wants, for other development that he wants, or for taxpayer subsidies that he wants.

Since the city council has not elected to purchase and preserve our foothills, we must wait as our most prized possessions pass from hand to hand like a busload of cheap floozies 30 minutes after the ship docks at port.

City council: Since other city councils buy foothill land to preserve it, THANKS FOR NUTHIN.

In the meantime, the notorious Justin Anderson, city water engineer and Frodo impersonator from Hell, is plotting a gambit for his 1.25 million gallon tank high on the hill, which is required for full build out of the bench.

Could Anderson's game also be part of the Peterson game? We can only believe one thing - whatever Peterson, Godfrey and Anderson tell us will not be trustworthy.

hiker said...

3 brand new pick-up trucks coming down the fire-break road yesterday morning, exiting at the top of 27th street.

And, you know if you have a key to that gate, you have a key to the mountains.

Dan S. said...

Speaking of the road above 27th Street: According to the county plat map, Ogden City has now acquired (from Mrs. Behnken, aka Solar Engineering) the small patch of land at the top of that road where a new water tank will be installed. This tank was approved by the council a couple of years ago and the road was retroactively approved by the Forest Service last year. So none of this is a surprise, and the only new development is that the property transfer took place as expected. I don't know what the city paid for the property.

Curmudgeon said...

All speculation, of course, at this point, what Mr. Peterson has in mind for those benchlands. But it occurs to me that, if he wishes, he can presumably locate a fair number of ski-in/ski-out condos on 47 acres, provided he's planning a way to get the skiers up the hill to Malan's Basin itself [a lift, perhaps, or... dare we think it?... a gondola?] Ski lodge, eatery, more lifts at the top, etc. Not quite the gingerbread Alpine Village dream in the hey-day of Hizzonah's flatland gondola from downtown carrying visitors to WSU where they'd switch to a Peterson Gondola inside the WSU Union to be whisked to a Tyrolean fantasy in Malan's Basin.

But at this point, who knows? It's all speculation. [Hmmmm... would a velodrome fit in Malan's Basin, I wonder?]

Dan S. said...

Curm: Descending from Malan's Basin to either of the foothill parcels would not be feasible for most skiers.

The lengthy Strong's Canyon route would be the easiest descent, but it's too far south and Peterson has no authority to continue it across the National Forest roadless area.

The Taylor Canyon route involves a long, steep descent for experts only, followed by a gentle descent down the narrow, icy trail at the bottom of the canyon, also on National Forest.

The new route via Waterfall Canyon ends at a convenient spot, but to get to it from above you'd have to descend the gulch, and that's quite extreme.

Then there's the elevation problem. In a good year, there might be snow in the foothills for a couple of months. In a bad year, it'll be only a couple of weeks. Snow making could help some, but I've never heard of anyone installing snow making equipment at an elevation where it can rain in January.

local loonies said...

"The Malan Religious Foundation"?

And they sold their properties to "Dumb Chris"?

Moonies, perhaps?

Curmudgeon said...

OK. Ski in/ ski out condos won't work on the 47 acres. But Vacation Villas will, que no?

And, pure speculation once again, I presume Mr. Peterson or his advisors don't anticipate much difficulty winning access across FS land where they need it, else what's the point of the long Strong's Canyon cut he had made least year, the one that dead ends on FS property above the WS property?

Speculating is fun, but that's all it is at this point.

Dan S. said...

Curm: I think "vacation villas" will be about as viable on these particular parcels as on just about any other small pieces of undeveloped foothill property along the Wasatch Front. Hard to create a resort atmosphere on such a small piece of land, when ordinary houses (and apartments) are so close by and there's no good tie-in to resort recreation. But that doesn't stop developers from dreaming, and even from building, provided they have the money.

The Strong's Canyon route is, of course, skiable even now, snow conditions permitting, for those who don't mind negotiating a quarter mile of heavy brush. Would the Forest Service approve a proposal to clear this brush to facilitate skiing? Or worse, would they approve a proposal to construct an access road along this route? I think they'd first have to be convinced that the whole idea of a resort in Malan's Basin is feasible, and that Chris Peterson has the ability to make the resort happen. Given Peterson's long history of floating far-fetched proposals that never go anywhere, that doesn't seem likely. And even if the FS was convinced of these things, I'd still put the chance of their approval at under 50%.

Meanwhile, Peterson and a few others can have some fun, riding the lifts at Snowbasin and sking down this side by way of Malan's Basin or Strong's Canyon. And he can enjoy explaining his "plans" to investors and politicians and anyone else who will listen. He seems to enjoy the attention.

Curmudgeon said...


You wrote: "But that [reality] doesn't stop developers from dreaming, and even from building, provided they have the money."


AWM said...

This as a historical recap from a 2006 article from SLC "The mayor (Godfrey) said Monday that he had committed to raising $5 million from private sources toward the costs, with the golf-course sale providing the remaining $20 million to $25 million. Peterson would have operated the urban gondola for the city, linking it with his own mountain gondola. The new idea - the mayor described it as "evolving" - is for Peterson to build, own and operate the urban gondola as well as the mountain gondola. Peterson would strike an agreement with Utah Transit Authority so commuter-rail riders arriving in downtown Ogden would be able to transfer to Peterson's gondola to WSU without paying any more than they would pay for a bus ticket, Godfrey said. FrontRunner commuter rail is due to reach Ogden next year. Godfrey rejected the notion of allowing Ogden residents to vote - even in a nonbinding referendum - on the project he has described as the biggest thing to hit Ogden since the railroad in the 1800s.
It would set a precedent for the public to vote on even inconsequential decisions, subverting the democratic process, he said. Godfrey did not rule out a city-sponsored poll, but said none is planned.

angel of karma said...

What an arrogant s.o.b this Chris Peterson must be. Has he no manners? Where does he get off cutting scars on our mountains? What does he need all that property for anyway? He ought to just give it to the Forest Service. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: he needs to be taught some manners and we ought to tar and feather him and ride him out of town on a rail. Or run him up a flagpole with a slipknot. If I ever catch him alone...lets just say his bad manners wouldn't be a problem anymore. You've got to agree that the world would be a better place without him.

Whatever said...

What about a land swap with the forest service for the remaining access to the road above the university.

Curmudgeon said...


Well, it's his land. And so he can do with it what he pleases, so long as what he does is consistent with County zoning and development rules, and with state or federal watershed and stream regulations, etc. So long as he abides by them, he's free pretty much to develop that land as he wishes. It is not public land. If he does not wish to sell or donate it for public use [and he's under no obligation to do that], the only way for the public to acquire the land would be for the county or state [most of his land is not in the city, I think] to institute eminent domain proceedings to take the land for a public purpose, like creating a Malan's Basin Park and Recreation Area. And even if that unlikely event happened, the county or state would have to pony up fair market value for the land, and that would involve a substantial sum.

I'm not happy about having the Basin and its approaches cut over, and developed either. But, again, it's his land. It's private property and so, so long as he stays within whatever legal restrictions apply to that land, he's free to do as he wishes. And should be. Doesn't seem like bad manners to me just because I wish he'd leave the land as it is.

Where do you draw the line Curmudg? said...

So Curm, are you saying that if Chris Peterson tells me I can't build a campfire in Malans Basin anymore, that's OK with you, just because it is HIS land? Weber State University and the Forest Service already limit or ban smoking and open fires on their land. It is getting so there isn't anyplace left where you can camp and build a traditional campfire.

Where do you draw the line Curmudg? said...

What if Peterson tells me I can't take my dog hiking with me anymore? Are you saying that's OK with you, just because it is HIS land? The Forest Servive already prohibits dogs in the canyons east of Salt Lake City to protect water quality. The same thing could be coming here. Peterson's land could be the only place left where I can hike with my dog. Where do you draw the line?

Moroni McConkie said...

I'm happy the Forest Service is concerned about dog shit in our water.

Peace said...

The idea of Absolute Property Rights, neighbors be damned, civil rights be damned, historical precedent be damned, water quality/environment be damned, beautiful views be damned...
just because he has a piece of paper issued by sympathetic bureaucrats: this is an idea that is so narrow, short sighted, greedy and petty.

One can only hope that this worshiping of self comes to an end, as children grow older and see the errors ogf the fathers ways, the filth and poverty and gluttony created by this Evil Idea.

Sure, he owns the property. And as such, he has LIMITED RIGHTS, MUCH RESPONSIBILITIES, balanced by the greater good of the community. Or so said "sane civilizations" that lasted far longer than this currently collapsing one.

Solution: just like strip clubs can be zoned out of existence, zone his land-raping attitude out of existence. At least the lovely strippers perform a public service.

Where do you stop said...

What if Chris Peterson tells me I can't camp overnight in Malans Basin anymore? Are you saying you're OK with that, because it is HIS land? The Forest Service and WSU already post signs in lots of places saying "Daytime Use Only". When you think about it, Weber State land and Forest Service land is really public land, owned by "we the people". The people who work for WSU and the Forest Service actually work for us. Why do we put up with them telling us we can't camp overnight anymore on our own land? It is getting so there isn't anyplace close to the city where you can camp overnight. People have camped in Malans Basin ever since the Malan Heights Hotel was burned by vandals in 1913. Are you saying Peterson can cut off camping now? Just because it is supposedly HIS land? What really makes it HIS land anyway? What makes Peterson so special?

Where do you draw the line Curmudg? said...

What about if Chris Peterson decides to start charging a fee to hike on HIS land? Is that OK with you Curmudg? The Forest Service has started charging us the PUBLIC to enter our own PUBLIC land in Mill Creek canyon in Salt Lake County and I have heard that if they catch you for sneaking in without paying their fee, the Forest Service gives you an expensive ticket. So can Peterson start charging a fee to hike on his land, just like the Forest Service does in Mill Creek, and can Peterson give me a ticket if I sneak in without paying? Is that OK with you Curmudg? Where do you draw the line Curmudg?

observer from the south said...

I just read the blog and comments above, and the Ogden Sierra Club web pages and maps that are linked. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I think you folks in Ogden are kidding yourselves about your rights to use the Peterson private property.

My suggestion is that you treat your Mr. Peterson with kid gloves, and hope he doesn’t close access to his property, because he definitely is holding all the cards as the owner of your local waterfall and mountainside.

There is a popular waterfall in Big Cottonwood Canyon, (east of Salt Lake City for those of you who never come down here) called Donut Falls. From what I can tell, Donut Falls is to Salt Lake City as Malan Falls is to Ogden. Everybody has been there at least once, and many people have been there dozens of times. People had been hiking to Donut Falls for over a century, since shortly after the mormon pioneers arrived.

A land development company bought Donut Falls and 144 acres of completely undevelopable land around it. Shortly thereafter, in 2004, the development company told the Forest Service it was closing public access to Donut Falls.

Salt Lake City’s most environmentally clued-in mayor up until that time, Rocky Anderson, did all he could to get the closure of Donut Falls lifted. He failed.

The Forest Service did all it could to get the closure lifted. The Forest Service not only failed, but Forest Service lawyers, unfortunately, uncovered policy that forced the Forest Service to change maps and signs and help enforce the private property closure. We know that not one Forest employee wanted to do it, but the Forest Service had to dedicate signs and uniformed rangers to tell people “Don’t start at the Forest Service trailhead and try to go to Donut Falls – you will be using a Forest Service trailhead to facilitate trespassing on private property and you could cause problems for the Forest Service”.

The best minds in numerous environmental groups in Salt Lake City tried to find a way to get the closure lifted. They failed.

Finally, in January 2007, Rocky Anderson helped finalize a water-quality deal to buy the commercially useless Donut Falls land for a little over $9,000 per acre, using ‘protection of the Salt Lake City watershed’ as the justification for the purchase. If, as your blogger Dan S. points out, skiers are riding chairlifts to the top of Snowbasin and then skiing down to Ogden via the Peterson land, and if, as another blogger points out, there was once a hotel on the Peterson land, you’re going to have to pay much more than $9,000 per acre. The Peterson land won’t be classified as commercially useless, and you’ll have to pay some big multiple of the $9,000 per acre that Salt Lake City paid for the Donut Falls land.

Like I said, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. There are some more details in an article from the Deseret News of January 20, 2007, entitled Salt Lake City buys and reopens Donut Falls

This Land is My Land said...

Hate to break it to you "observer from the south," but Peterson's Malan's Basin and westerly trails property likely remains subject to long-standing "public prescriptive easements" which went into effect long before Peterson acquired these properties.

His "predecessor in title," i.e., the Malan family, basically gave "carte blanche" to otherwise "trespassers" for over 100 years, a period far exceeding the period required for adverse possession under Utah law.

The poor schmuck Peterson will no doubt have a hard time, legally, shutting the public out from prescriptive easement rights which were perfected no later than the early part of the 20th century.

If this Peterson idiot tries to impair my public easement rights in any way... he'll have to see me in court.

observer from the south said...

Salt Lake City buys and reopens Donut Falls

By Doug Smeath
Deseret Morning News

Published: Monday, Jan. 22, 2007 11:50 a.m. MST

Donut Falls, a popular hiking destination in Big Cottonwood Canyon that had been inaccessible in recent years, has reopened to the public — the result of Salt Lake City's effort to protect its drinking-water sources by purchasing land in the city's watershed.

The city purchased the Donut Falls land, about 9 1/2 miles up the canyon, for $1.3 million.

"It's a great addition," deputy Public Utilities director Jeff Niermeyer said. "We're glad to get it for watershed protection. We're really happy to have what's kind of been a community treasure back and the ability of the community to enjoy it without stepping over 'No trespassing' signs."

The site — where spring water falls through eroded rock on its way downhill toward Big Cottonwood Creek, accessible by a mild 3/4-mile hike — has been off limits to the public because the previous owner, a private development company, feared liability for accidents.

Now, the falls, and about 144 acres surrounding it, are owned by the city, even though it is not within city limits. Salt Lake City's water system owns more than 24,000 acres of land throughout its watershed in the Wasatch Mountains. Ownership allows the city to prevent development and protect the water quality.

The watershed buy-ups have been a major part of the city's water-management plan since a 1986 master plan called for the creation of a fund for that purpose. But the city has been buying land in its watershed since the late 1800s.

In his State of the City speech Tuesday, Mayor Rocky Anderson called Donut Falls "a critical watershed area and a beautiful hiking destination that has been closed to the public in recent years. Securing vital watershed lands like Donut Falls will help ensure the continued integrity and purity of our water supply."

Donut Falls has long been a popular destination for families looking for a moderate hike on a warm day.

The turn-off to the falls is about 9 1/2 miles up the canyon, on the south side of the road, clearly identified by a sign. After the turnoff, the short drive to the parking lot includes a dusty unpaved section but is accessible to most vehicles.

The hike is at its steepest near the beginning. The trail winds through woods and meadows and ends at the falls, where children as young as 5 can wade through shallow waters, while the older kids and grown-ups can tread into a deeper run-off pool or the reservoir below.

But while the area is considering a fairly safe hike, it carries a certain risk. A 33-year-old man was killed in 1990 when he fell through the donut-shaped hole in the rock on a visit with an LDS Church singles group.

Niermeyer said the city will now take on some liability, but as a governmental entity its liability is limited.

"Anytime you own ground there's liability," he said. "There are protections within the law that basically, as long as you leave natural areas natural," recreation is at the visitor's own risk. "There's inherent risks going into the mountains, and I think a lot of us recognize that."

Because the site is an important part of the city's watershed, dogs, horses and other pets are not allowed.

And Niermeyer said the city's ownership doesn't mean visitors should expect to see it turn into a park or other additions added.

"That's the attraction of it," he said. "It's a natural area in the mountains with a pretty waterfall going through a hole."

However, the city will likely work out a deal with the U.S. Forest Service to care for the area through its backcountry management work.

E-mail: dsmeath@desnews.com

This Land is My Land said...

"Salt Lake City buys and reopens Donut Falls"


observer from the south said...

This Land is My Land:
A gentle suggestion- read up on adverse possession and prescriptive easements, starting with the findlaw.com definition you linked above. In the Donut Falls case, every possible argument was explored, including the one you are making. At Donut Falls, we easily passed the "use" test, but we couldn't pass the very stringent "adverse" test or the nearly impossible "hostile" test. Like the Malan family with their Basin and their Falls, the historic owners of Donut Falls didn't mind that the public was walking over their land. The historic owners practically invited the public - they offered wagon rides up the hill and sold treats and drinks. On days when the wagon wasn't operating, they only rarely discouraged the public from walking up to the falls, for example when the water was high and dangerous. They gave the public, to use your term, "carte blanche" to use their property. If the use is with permission, it is not adverse.
To add insult to injury, we discovered that the Forest Service is required to provide "reasonable access" to private landowners when Forest Service land is located between the private land and the nearest accessible public roadway. This means that, while the public was banned from crossing private land to see Donut Falls, the private landowner could demand the right to repair an ancient wagon road so he could drive a SUV, jeep or ATV across an otherwise non-motorized section of Forest Service ground to get to his private land. Like it or not, state and federal law seem to give all the breaks to private property owners.
I am not saying this to discourage you or to argue with you, I am just giving you the gentle suggestions of a weary warrior so you can, if you choose, save some energy and focus on what worked in a very similar Donut Falls situation.

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