Tim Vandenack, Standards Examiner

Kent Singleton stands at the new fence blocking the traditional rafter tow section along the Hen-Tag section of the Weber River in Taggart on Jan. 21, 2022. The fence, he says, is meant to keep people away from what he says is his property and stems from liability concerns. The fence was later removed by Morgan County after it was found to have been illegally built on public land.

TAGGART — As of mid-2019, Kent Singleton has owned land that includes a popular pickup point that thousands of rafters, tubers and kayakers use to get out of the Weber River on hot summer days.

But so far, he has been thwarted in his efforts to manage and monetize the popular country.

It’s not for lack of trying, but Singleton’s interactions with government officials and employees have left him feeling frustrated and disillusioned.

Singleton recently tried to get a Morgan County sheriff’s deputy to enforce his “no trespassing” signs at the exit, but instead Singleton’s wife received a trespassing citation for trying to change the batteries in the cameras. posted at their gate across the river.

In May 2019, Singleton — a real estate broker who lives in Midvale — bought 6 acres in Taggart that include this particular people magnet.

Early on, he had dreams of improving the area with restrooms, a double-decker bus modeled after a food truck and even a bridge crossing the river on much of his property on the south side.

On summer days, about 3,000 to 6,000 cranes that start near Henefer in Summit County swim the 6- to 7-mile stretch of the “Hen-Tag” to get to this particular point.

Many pay to use a rafting company like Destination Sports to book their adventure, but some just buy some gear and figure it out on their own.

So far, Singleton’s ideas for improving his property remain under wraps as he has locked horns with government officials up and down the line. Last May, a Morgan County public works crew tore down a fence Singleton had built to block the outlet after a survey found it was erected outside his property’s boundaries.

Hard ground

Mike Newton, who chairs the Morgan County Commission, described the challenges involved in developing any part of Singleton’s land, which he said “crosses the river a little bit, off the highway from the off-ramp. The rest is across the river, and on the back side of it is the railroad property.

“For all intents and purposes, it’s kind of an island, there’s no physical access from a county road,” Newton said.

The land — severed when the river was rerouted for the construction of Interstate 84 in the 1950s — is zoned for multiple uses in 160-acre parcels.

“It’s farm land,” Newton said. “To do anything with the property other than agricultural use, it would have to be rezoned.”

Although Newton asked Singleton to pursue a precinct, Singleton has yet to file any paperwork to begin that process.

And for Singleton, that effort could prove to be a long and costly one. Newton noted that some of the land lies in a floodplain, some faces an unbuildable mountain, and lies near two major gas lines that run from Wyoming to the Wasatch Front, along with a high-voltage power line. high that passes through the area.

“It’s a tough piece of property,” Newton said.

Rather than file the district’s paperwork with the county, Singleton has taken his fight elsewhere, spraying public records requests along the way.

“He’s contacted every state agency he can think of, from the health department to the governor’s office in every surrounding county, the state Department of Natural Resources, the Division of Wildlife Resources — you name it, I’ve gotten calls from everyone them,” Newton said.

But these actions left Singleton and his remaining allies with deepening skepticism about the workings of government.

Singleton previously sought help from the state’s private property ombudsman, resulting in the formation of the Hen-Tag Task Force that included various government representatives. By January 2022, that group had disbanded because the meetings were unproductive, according to a memo from Morgan District Attorney Garrett Smith.

As outdoor fun increased this summer, Singleton targeted the Weber-Morgan Health Department for answers, help and action.

In late July, Singleton asked Weber-Morgan to close the intake until “solutions are made available to the public.” His concerns included allegations of littering, drunkenness, drug use, public urination, defecation and problems with portable toilets.

Who is in charge?

Last Monday, Singleton presented his viewpoint to the Weber-Morgan Health Board in hopes of getting the public health agency to intervene on his behalf.

Singleton told board members that after years of filing formal complaints, he realized that health department management and staff “have no intention of doing any study or investigation of the thousands of people coming from Summit County via the Weber River and exiting the river in my private house. property in Taggart.”

Jeffry Glum, a former compliance officer for Ogden City, also spoke on behalf of Singleton as part owner of the Taggart property.

“Is your mass meeting statute adequate? Six thousand people swimming the river – what is the impact on it? Glum asked the board, expressing frustration at what he also saw as their unwillingness to investigate and “think outside the box.”

Brian Cowan, Weber-Morgan’s executive director, said the health department is legally charged with overseeing mass gatherings, but activity at mass gatherings does not meet that definition because no single entity is responsible.

Cowan compared the influx of visitors to what happens at Causey and Pineview reservoirs on summer weekends.

“We have a lot of recreation areas in Utah that are public land,” Cowan said, “and when we look at those activities, it’s generally up to the individual to be responsible for themselves to pack and pack it.”

The issues raised by Taggart’s meeting involve multiple layers of government authority and responsibility, Cowan added.

“It’s our job to figure out what falls under the (Weber-Morgan) rule and how we respond to that,” Cowan said, noting that public health emergencies obviously remain within their purview.

“We’ve looked at the data and the practice,” Cowan said, noting that Weber Basin Water and the state Division of Water Quality routinely take samples in the area. And the Weber-Morgan staff has done the same at times.

“They really don’t show a degradation or growth of coliforms (bacteria),” Cowan said. “So we don’t have a public health emergency.”

Recreate responsibly

Despite Singleton’s wishes, vigorous recreational use of what he calls his “driveway” continues.

And Morgan County provides some services in support of those activities even though Newton said the county receives very little revenue from all the visitors. Most of that is behind Summit County.

Morgan County currently supplies and services two portable toilets and three trash cans for the area. And Newton said they have also taken steps to transfer ownership of the road to UDOT ownership and the land immediately north of the intake.

“The county spent about $10,000 resurfacing the shoulders and adding some space along the sides of the road there,” Newton said, to allow for parking that would still allow access for ambulances and emergency vehicles.

“Right now it’s county-managed property, not county-owned yet,” Newton said.

Newton acknowledged that concerns about litter and sewage are legitimate, also urging people to take personal responsibility for their rubbish and use outhouses rather than relieving themselves in the bush or river.

“This will certainly go a long way to making sure that the area remains accessible to the public,” Newton said, adding that “Morgan County has no problem with Singleton using his property, but he has to pass through the proper process to do so. , just like every landowner in the county.”

Cathy McKitrick is a freelance journalist in Northern Utah.


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