Business owners hope to survive state Highway 14 landslide
, Utah Geological Survey
DUCK CREEK VILLAGE — Normally, this Kane County winter destination would be full of people renting snowmobiles and eating at the restaurants on the weekend.
But a landslide has shut down not just the main road leading here, but the economic engine to this village and the surrounding towns.
"My parking lot is empty. Everything is empty down the streets," says Rick Hanna, who rents cabins as the owner of Mountain Man Realty. "There's nobody walking. There should be snowmobiles. There's just nothing going on."
The massive landslide came smashing down on top of state Route 14 last October. The highway goes through Duck Creek and is the main connector between Cedar City in Iron County and U.S. 89 in Kane County.
Triggered in the early morning hours, the slide buried the highway with enough dirt, rocks and trees to fill a football stadium.
And with no highway, there is little traffic.
"If we have to go around to Highway 20 and back up (U.S.) 89, it's a 150-mile detour," says Iron County Commissioner Dan Webster, describing the alternate route to Duck Creek. "Drivers are bypassing Cedar City, and it's having a huge economic effect on our community."
And the impact may last longer than winter, which has businesses here concerned if they can survive the lengthy repair schedule for the Utah Department of Transportation crews to remove some of the 1.1 million cubic yards of earth that slid.
"We're down to about 700,000 cubic yards that still have to be moved," says UDOT district engineer Jim McConnell.
Recently, UDOT received $10 million in emergency federal funds toward the project, but federal dollars means a slower process.
"It's just a few more things you have to get the approvals on," says McConnell. "Maybe they're a little bit harder on some things, but we're still working through that process and we're pretty well on schedule."
UDOT hopes to have a contractor in place to remove the rest of the debris beginning in March. A gravel road is to be open in June, and a fully paved highway finished by July 4.
However, by then the tourist season is half over.
"I don't know if we're going to be able to make it through. We might be out of business," says Rod Ence, owner of Loose Wheels in Duck Creek.
Ence's shop consists of a gas station, convenience store and a snowmobile repair shop.
He also sells snowmobiles, but not many of them have been going out the door this season.
"We don't have any customers," he said. "Our sales on recreational vehicles have dropped to almost nothing. It's almost to where you can't survive."
County commissioners have written letters to Gov. Gary Herbert and state leaders asking for more assistance.
Still, it's a large project with no quick fix.
"We're doing everything we can to try and get traffic access into the canyon back as soon as we can," McConnell said.
Residents say they understand the amount of work that needs to be done.
They're just hoping they can last through it.
"Whatever we can do to help," says Hanna. "We're gonna go broke up here if we don't get something done."
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