Frontier Area — Larger Scale





Creating a Bright Angel historic valley is an ambitious project in itself.  To complete it would be a source of great pride.  If the project were completed and became popular, however, it might be replicated elsewhere or on a larger scale.  Those later applications of the concept would be guided by our intial experience.  In discussing them we are getting well ahead of our story, of course, but it may not be too early to start thinking.Three larger-scale approaches seem particularly promising:  (1) creating other similar areas; (2) linking a number of such areas together; and (3) converting the linear spectrum of a valley into a series of concentric rings that would cover a larger area.

Duplicating the areas

The simplest extension of the idea is simply to replicate it.  On this website we are proposing to create just one Bright Angel historic valley, in a particular location to be selected, and one other project in which the valley would be approached indirectly, through the intermediate creation of a national heritage area.  This reflects a sense that there will be no great desire to create further historic areas until the first approaches have proved themselves.  If they do, however, then other such areas could be created in suitable places.One other promising location might be kept in the back of our minds for consideration at that time.  This would be in the San Rafael Swell in central Utah.  That too offers spectacular scenery.  Water is an issue, but one that could be solved by buying water rights in the open market, restoring a reliable flow in the San Rafael River, and then building the towns along that stream corridor.

Having several different historical valleys would make it possible to introduce some interesting local variations.  We would not want to have the different valleys be cookie-cutter applications of the same idea.  Rather, with each new one it would become practical to become more highly differentiated, and for each to present the distinctive local cultures of the settlers and the native populations of its particular area.

Connecting the areas

A somewhat more complex extension of the idea would be to link together one or more of the Bright Angel valleys in a way that will permit continuous travel among them.

If areas were established in two valleys separated by a single divide, for example, it would be possible for travelers to go along the entire length of one valley, to its smallest and earliest settlement, then climb over a pass and drop down into the next area, and then travel through that string of towns gradually back to the modern world.

The linkage among areas could take a variety of forms.  At its most elaborate, a series of Bright Angel valleys could run across the West in a loose network, inevitably crossed at some points by roads (which might be put underground in some key places), but basically allowing extended travel without leaving the world of the nineteenth century frontier.  Such a network could link up with with wilderness areas on the one hand, and with outside gateway towns on the other.

Turning the areas into rings

Finally, the largest-scale application of the concept would involve taking the single line of the Bright Angel valley and turning it into a broader regional plan.  This could be done by visualizing the current chain of towns — all the way from the modern gateway communities at one end to the wilderness at the other — then mentally “anchoring” the wilderness end on the map, and then rotating the entire line around that point.  The result would be that the spectrum of the original line would trace a series of concentric circles on the map.  This would allow the application of the same basic concepts to a considerably larger territory.

A fully developed area of this sort might involve five concentric rings.  (1) The largest, outermost ring would be managed for increased economic growth.  Substantial areas of ranch and forest land would be privatized, although subject to conservation easements to prevent inappropriate development.  The existing gateway towns in the area would be encouraged to adopt non-burdensome historic zoning rules to re-create the feel of the 1950s in a few conspicuous facilities (perhaps limited to selected storefronts, signs, and public facilities). (2) The second ring in would follow current land-management practices.  The smaller existing gateway towns there would be encouraged to adopt historic zoning rules keyed to the 1920s.  (3) The third ring would lie on what is now empty federal land.  There some scattered new towns would be created, similar to the larger, railroad-accessible Bright Angel towns.  (4)  The fourth ring in would involve the creation of smaller and more remote nineteenth century towns, without public transportation.  (5) The center would be an extensive wilderness area.

While the resulting sets of rings would cover a considerable area, there are a few places in the Southwest where — with some careful adjustments of the boundary lines — they can just fit in and be compatible with current uses.

Framing the frontier area in these more extensive regional terms would have several attractive features.  First, it makes it easier for people to live or travel in a particular style that appeals to them, since each ring would offer a continuous path.  Second, each pair of adjoining rings would be basically similar, so that the rings can buffer one another, and the central wilderness, for example, will be far from the modern world.  Third, the economic development in the outermost ring will be of particular benefit to current residents of the area, since it will occur closest to existing centers of population.

All of these proposals will have to be considered, when and if the time comes, with an eye on how much support they have locally.  These are all plans to preserve the heritage and the economic health of the local communities (as well as of the conservation community), and nothing will be gained by acting against the opposition of either group.


      • Back to

Frontier Area Menu


Print or share this: