UTAH COUNTY, Utah — Bridal Veil Falls is one of Utah’s natural gems and a popular spot for summer hiking, winter ice climbing, and wedding photography year-round.
Today’s younger visitors might be unaware that decades ago the “world’s steepest tram” whisked visitors from the parking lot, past the falls, up to a high canyon ledge. There was even a restaurant up top.
An avalanche on New Year’s Day in 1995 damaged the structures and made the tram inoperable. In later years, a fire destroyed even more of the infrastructure.
In 2015, the portion of privately-owned land which had housed the tram was sold to Utah County for more than two million dollars.
But a handful of individuals have never stopped dreaming of bringing a tram back to the falls.
There was an author who hatched a plan to sell a million books and use the proceeds to build a tram, but the plan didn’t pan out.
And then there’s Richard Losee, a successful businessman whose owned everything from jewelry stores to drug rehabilitation centers. His idea is backed with funds and know-how, but is being met with serious opposition.
Provo City Councilman George Handley tells Fox 13 he and other council members have been contacted by dozens, if not hundreds, of individuals asking them to bar any type of development at or near Bridal Veil Falls. Provo City doesn’t actually own the land where the tram might be built, but does own adjacent land including parking areas and trails.
In a proposal to the Utah County Commission, which oversees the 21 acres or so Losee seeks for his tram, he states: “I wish to preserve Bridal Veil Falls and do it in the spirit of what is exemplified in Switzerland and the Alps where the community can abundantly and safely enjoy their magnificent mountains up close.”
The proposal outlines three “Options to Acquire”:
1. Purchase of entire County property. I could buy the entire County parcel of approximately 21 acres, keep the Tram Acquisition and then deed the approximate 20 acres remaining back to the County contingent on the County agreeing to conservation purposes or dedicate it to a recognized conservation entity. I would be willing to pay $2,500,000.00.
2. Purchase of the Tram Acquisition. I could buy just the Tram Acquisition and the County could keep the remaining property for conservation purposes or dedicate it to a recognized conservation entity. I would be willing to pay $1,000,000.00.
3. Lease of the Tram Acquisition. I could lease just the Tram Acquisition for the longest lease that the County can legally enter into (I think that might be 50 years) and the County could keep the remaining property for conservation purposes or dedicate it to a recognized conservation entity. I would be willing to pay $20,000.00/yr. for the lease (a total payment of $1,000,000.00).
Much of the opposition to the project, according to Losee’s attorney Bruce Baird, stems from unfounded rumors that a sprawling drug treatment center would be built at the top end of the tram.
Baird says Losee would like a treatment center there but only a small one, serving only a couple clients at a time. The rest of the operation, he says, would be much like the experience older Utahns enjoyed, a unique tourist attraction operating between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Three Utah County Commissioners could decide the fate of the proposed tram when they meet Wednesday.
Baird says any decision would be rushed, as some details of the proposal are unknown, and others have been misrepresented.
Fox 13 asked several people to weigh in on this issue, ranging from residents of Provo Canyon, to Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie who freely expressed his dislike for the proposal adding that a vote on Wednesday would not be premature since Losee’s proposal is “something we’ve been talking about for years.”