Jay Meehan: Bonanza Flat
Park Record columnist
How about that deal Park City’s current batch of elected officials, along with other open-space stakeholders in the area, ushered through to first acquire and thereby protect Bonanza Flat from unwanted development by the private sector. Pretty cool, eh?
I haven’t seen such a celebratory mood being tossed about among land-use players in my peer group since “Tink” Clyde removed a few 55-gallon drums from behind his billiard hall over here in Heber to create a few additional parking spaces for the thirsty philosopher habitués of his iconic haunt.
Back during the late summer/early fall of 1970 when a secondary wave of us outside agitators from the left coast had first moved to Park City and were attempting to get our geographical sea legs by pushing the known boundaries of our newly adopted homeland, we would nose around up an unpaved road to the south, build campfires and marvel at the Wasatch.
We felt like the vanguard of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery. Until, that is, the ever-shortening sound waves from a couple of tricked-out Power Wagons that were snacking on the Quaking Aspens broke through a nearby stand. It turned out that a “bluster” of idiosyncratic locals, “Gazoont” and “Wino” by name, were just out for an evening drive.
They were heading over to some far away Galaxy known as Bonanza Flat and figured the two cases of Coors they had brought along would get them there and back. Brave souls, those two!
It would take a few additional forays into the unknown before our bunch would make it that far into the void.
We would first have to learn that building random campfires along the “Scenic Backway” of Guardsman Pass was less-favorably looked upon than just bowling over the fuel source with huge trucks.
Further on down the time-warped road, of course, a familiarity of sorts would take hold. As it turned out, one could also enter upon the planetary systems of Brighton and Heber (gasp!) by this route.
In fact it wasn’t long before McGee and Kranny were racing each other in a bob-and-weave three-pin ski fashion from the front door of the Alamo Saloon to their digs at the lodge up at Girl Scout Lake (Camp Cloud Rim) in the heart of the land in question. Trust me on this. They were caretakers, of sorts.
It should be noted that they would also play host to cross-country ski-relay race competitions upon the frozen and snow-packed surface of the lake. So it wasn’t all just debauchery in the woods. Athletic games were afoot.
Plus, the fire that took out the lodge in ‘92 came well after their occupancy. At the time, it was rumored to be the same Death Star that incinerated Park City’s famed Coalition Building.
If one nosed around even further into the Bonanza Flat of that day, more than likely sightings of a few well-armored and somewhat-camouflaged cabins might have appeared amid the thick groves.
The apocalypse had been sighted just over the rise, and, from their perch atop the Sun Classics Film administrative pyramid, the hierarchy spotted it first. If one were hip to such goings on, “mum,” of course, was the word.
In fact, it took a prominently displayed investigative journalism piece in a Salt Lake Tribune of the day to alert the rest of us to both the impending dystopian carnage over the horizon and the subsequent militias in our midst.
An interview with one of the film-producers-in-question laid bare a few vague facts surrounding “ongoing paramilitary maneuvers” conducted by the group. I had witnessed just such maneuvering upstairs at “The Club” saloon. It nearly ran the barmaids ragged.
But it took a few tequila-induced eye-witness testimonies from production geeks who had actually been granted entrée to the cabins to get a feel for the roll-up steel security bars enveloping both the munitions safes and liquor cabinets. Loose lips both sink ships and spill drinks it would seem.
So, it’s good to become aware that the pristine landscape of Bonanza Flat is safe from the roar of bulldozers, at least in the near term. In the current political environment, it is a huge victory for those with an open-space agenda. We owe deep gratitude to all involved. I join my peers in being totally stoked over this outcome. My spirit soars!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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