This is the first issue of the Canyon Country Zephyr, a monthly publication of news, opinion, information, and entertainment for Grand County and southern Utah. According to Webster’s Dictionary, a “zephyr” is defined as “any warm, western breeze.” As it applies to this newspaper, the definition may vary. To some, The Zephyr will represent a breath of fresh air; to others, it may sound like a lot of hot wind. At one time or another, I hope that every reader will reach both conclusions…we’re not here to cater to and patronize any one constituency, or anger and provoke another. But we would like to stimulate intelligent discussion of the issues that concern the citizens of this county.
I’ve lived in Moab for most of my “adult life,” (whatever that means,) and I guess I wouldn’t live anywhere else. What brought me here was the sheer beauty of the place. I came from Kentucky, where everything is green and lush and soggy. How I survived for twenty-odd years in that closed-in land of no vistas is beyond me. I need wide openness to survive, and I think a lot of you are the same way. The vast landscape, the limitless blue (clean) skies, and of course, our unique red rock are vital to our lives and make it all worthwhile.
But I have to admit, the people who live in this corner of the Colorado Plateau are as diverse as the land they inhabit. From the first time I sat down at the Westerner Grill for a cup of coffee, I realized there were as many opinions in this town as there are inhabitants. That’s why there’s never a lack of subject matter for stimulating conversation. And that’s the way it should be, and hopefully, always will be. Who would want to live in a community where everybody looked and talked and acted and thought the same? I’m falling asleep just thinking about it. Terminal boredom.
The Zephyr wants to reflect the diversity of both Grand County’s land and people, hopefully in a positive and constructive manner. This newspaper is determined to objectively tell its readers the stories and events that are affecting Southern Utah. But we will also express opinions which in your eyes may or may not be correct. I may find myself disagreeing with commentaries within these pages. If The Zephyr hopes to present a balanced view of the life here, it has to present more than one point of view.
Regular columnists Ken Sleight and John Sensenbrenner will share their thoughts, ruminations and cerebrations each month, and I can almost guarantee that each of us will find some part of their wit and wisdom with which to disagree. I have been trying to coax former long-time resident Joe Stocks to make a contribution to this paper; Joe and I have, over the years, rarely agreed on anything. But I’ve learned to appreciate his opinion and think he is sorely needed here.
If anyone can get Joe Stocks to put pen to paper, it may be author, environmentalist and well-known troublemaker Ed Abbey. Mr. Abbey will hopefully become a dedicated, if irregular, contributor to The Zephyr. This month’s entry, “Hard Times in Santa Fe,” appears for the first time in any English-speaking periodical…figure that one out. There is a message for Moab and its future when Abbey warns that once quaint and quiet Santa Fe has come to resemble any other town “where the blight of our techno-industrial age has laid down its heavy hand.”
Joe Stocks, are you listening?
All this opinion and commentary won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on without the participation and feedback of the readers. If you disagree with The Zephyr, don’t sit there and grumble. Let us know. Tell us why we’re wrong. In future issues, a “Zephyr feedback” section will be available for readers to express their opinion. Only trough an exchange of ideas and information can anyone hope to learn anything.
In order to learn and grow, that information has to be available. In our society, we have to trust our government enough to let it act on our behalf. We could hardly put every minute decision to a public vote. But, at the same time, government must have enough faith in itself and its own good judgment to share those decisions with the public it serves. And it must be ready to respond with an open mind when that public disagrees with those decisions.
The Zephyr hopes it can help provide that information in a number of ways. Each month, the Grand County Commission and the Moab City Mayor have agreed to sit down with this paper in an interview-type format and discuss the month’s activities, the government’s decisions, and its plans for the future. To be successful, we need your help.
If you have a legitimate question, complaint, or concern for either the commission or the Mayor, write it down and send it to The Zephyr, P.O. Box 327, Moab Utah 84532. Hopefully, these interviews can allow the public to feel closer to their elected officials, and will provide the commission and the Mayor an opportunity to respond directly to their constituents. If we’ve learned anything from the local history of our recent past, it is that communication between the government and the people is absolutely vital for the democratic process to effectively work.
Another regular feature which we call the “Public Lands Watchdog,” reviews the activities of the Federal agencies that regulate and control over 70% of the acreage in Grand and San Juan Counties. The National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management manage millions of acres of public lands in Grand County alone. It’s a tremendous responsibility to care for these lands in the public interest, especially when those interests are so varied. With the cooperation of these agencies, The Zephyr hopes it can keep its readers informed on current management practices as they affect our public lands.
If all this up to now sounds very serious, it is; the future of our town and our county and the canyons and mountains that surround us is important to us all. But, at the same time, it’s not healthy to take ourselves too seriously; nor does The Zephyr always want to wear a poker face. Humor and satire are vital if we hope to maintain any kind of proper perspective in this crazy world of 1989. (Is it really 1989 already?) After all, there is more to life than political melodramas, controversies, and spitting epithets at government agencies.
The Zephyr hopes it can share the stories, the myths, and the legends that have made this county what it is today. Our community has a lot of interesting people with a lot of stories to tell. Tall tales. Short tales. And anything in-between. The history of this area is absolutely fascinating, and The Zephyr hopes it can make that history come alive through the eyes and ears and memories of those who watched it all happen. From the way it was to the way it is now, we’ve come a long way; sometimes I”m not sure if we’re going backwards or forwards, but life in southern Utah bears little resemblance to the way it was even 40 years ago. We’d like to save those memories, and keep them safe and secure in these pages.
This first issue of The Canyon Country Zephyr is in its embryonic stage. It will change and grow as time passes. We’ll try out new ideas, new formats, new regular features and sometimes they’ll work and sometimes they won’t. If you have ideas for us, let us know; we have an open mind. The Zephyr hopes to be around for a long time, but it depends on your participation and your approval.
Thanks for giving us a try. See you next month.
The Canyon Country Zephyr is dedicated to the spirit and memory of Joan Swanson.
Jim Stiles is Founder and Co-Publisher of the Canyon Country Zephyr.
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