Organizations are trying to gain access to a trail to Willard Canyon recently blocked by landowners.

WILLARD – A group of about 20 people formed a coalition to gain entrance across private property to get to Willard Canyon, a popular hunting and hiking trail.

Matsu Udy photographed this faded rock art left on the walls near Willard Canyon.

The privately owned property leading to the canyon is being mined for its granite and was recently leased to Granite Construction, which plans to mine the rocks below the entrance at the canyon.

Mark Murphy, chairman of the Willard Access Coalition, with other likeminded people was concerned when the property owner blocked access to the canyon.

“In September of 2023 the property owners fenced off the trailhead and bulldozed a large mound of dirt across the trail blocking anyone trying to use it,” he said. ”That trail has been used since pioneer days.”

At one time the canyon was mined and some of the mining equipment can still be found up in the canyon. Some are concerned that there are early petroglyphs on the walls of the canyon that may be destroyed.

“The trail is a legacy trail recognized by Willard City and Box Elder County,” Murphy said. “The trial is considered a roadway. A roadway could be a single pathway; the county is supposed to maintain it.”

There is a parking lot at the trial head and there is State and Federal land behind the property that people cannot access.

In their mission statement, the Willard Canyon Access Coalition wants the fence blocking the trail removed so anyone can access the trial, they also want the trailhead improved and repaired.

Their hope is to get a prescriptive trail easement then have it recognized and recorded.

A prescriptive agreement would give public access to the trail if certain conditions were met.

“We have about 100 supporters on social media,” Murphy said. ”We have some lawyers we know that will help with a resolution. Our goal is to make this a good resolution for everyone not only for us but to those at the mine.”

Matsu Udy is another opponent of blocking the trail and the mining of the rocks at the mouth of the canyon. He formed the Gauḍīya Society of Sacred Archaeology adding his organization to the protest.

“There is ancient rock art in the canyon the group would like to save,” Udy said.” “I want to speak on behalf of the sacred land that is currently being destroyed by Granite Construction Inc.”

He said Willard Canyon is a breathtaking landscape that is home to countless species, limitless adventures, and is riddled with the irreplaceable history of the indigenous people who lived in this area of Utah such as the Fremont and Shoshone.

“All of this is in danger of being erased by open-pit mining, a destructive and unsustainable practice that not only damages the environment, but also harms the health and well-being of the people and animals that live near the mines.”

Udy said the canyon was once a place for exploring and adventure, but is now private property being continuously eaten away by ever widening open-pit mines.

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