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For the week of Sept. 15, 1999 through Sept. 22, 1999

A mysterious bench makes its appearance

Commentary by PAT MURPHY


It’s a lovely thought, executed in a restful setting.

But, alas, it’s illegal.

There, on a slight rise just above the trailhead creek in Adams Gulch and tucked in a cluster of young aspen, is a wooden bench.

In the first few days after I first spotted it during regular hikes with my two Labs, a small piece of paper with a handwritten note was left behind under a rock on the bench.

"Simmons Memorial Bench," it read, with a caution not to sit on the bench until concrete footings for the legs had hardened.

The note has vanished. The concrete has hardened. On my morning, midday and afternoon hikes, I’ve yet to see anyone at the bench.

So, who’s "Simmons"? And who paid for a finely finished wooden bench, about six feet long, with slatted backrest and arm rests?

It’s a mystery.

But this is no mystery: unless there’s a change of heart, the Forest Service will remove the bench, which is unauthorized.

Benefactors of this tribute to "Simmons" will be angered when the bench is removed, and when they show up to reclaim the bench, the Forest Service will discover the identity of "Simmons."

The Forest Service is not heartless. But it’s required to enforce rules.

The agency appreciates the harmlessness of a bench in Adams Gulch. But one of the Ketchum Ranger District’s staffers says impromptu and unauthorized accoutrements on public land soon would lead to an unsightly collection of odds ‘n’ ends amounting to unsightly clutter.

Had benefactors of the "Simmons" bench sought Forest Service permission, they might well have received it—if their reasoning was convincing and made a lasting contribution to the pastoral setting in Adams Gulch.

Pressed as it is for funds, perhaps the Forest Service in time will relent and encourage donors to offer benches for places such as Adams Gulch, where not everyone wants to hike or bike, but may simply want to sit and take in the idyllic panorama of foothills, streams, trees and passersby with their frisky dogs.

The "Simmons Memorial Bench" is spotted in one of those places where perhaps an older couple not up to hiking could simply pause and enjoy some of Mother Nature’s treasures.

Heaven knows, the "Simmons Memorial Bench" in Adams Gulch is a lot less offensive or intrusive than motorized dirt bikes ripping through the Gulch, shattering the quiet and leaving an odor of gasoline in the air.

Such rules – "no" to benches, "yes" to motorized dirt bikes – just never make any sense.

 

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Copyright 1999 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.