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Developer seeks to preserve ancient ruins
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

KANAB - The ancient Anasazi carved out an existence in the hills outside Kanab. They dug pits, hunted elk and grew maize.

Now, St. George developer Milo McCowan wants to carve out a subdivision on those same slopes. He wants to build homes, sculpt trails and erect an amphitheater.

Oh, and he wants to save - and even capitalize on - many of those American Indian ruins.

"We are dedicating 20 acres in the project for long-term archaeological excavation and study, hopefully in partnership with a university," McCowan said. "Amateur archaeologists could move here and live and assist with a significant dig in their own neighborhood."

At his subdivision - named Chaco Canyon after the famous Anasazi ruins in New Mexico - McCowan plans to build 700 to 800 houses and town homes on 270 acres west of Kanab Creek, which are in the process of being annexed into Kanab.

The homes will be clustered to make way for open spaces and trails.

McCowan also hopes to add an amphitheater for the performing arts and a museum for showcasing the area's artifacts. The entrance road will wind between two ruin sites.

Doug McFadden, former head archaeologist with the Bureau of Land Management's nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, said the ruins - at 14 sites - offer excellent examples of how the Virgin Anasazi lived from the year 1 to the 1200s, when they abruptly vanished.

McFadden, whose private consulting firm conducted an archaeological survey of the area for McCowan last spring, said the ancient dwellings - layered and built in blocks of rooms - were used for residential and storage space. They extend down about 15 feet.

"They show us the different periods of occupation from the early [Anasazi] to the late period," McFadden said.

"It's a neat situation to have that continuity of occupation. It allows us to study how things changed for them over time."

McFadden saluted McGowan for stepping up to preserve the sites.

"It's an extremely rare situation for a [private] developer to go out of his way to protect a site," McFadden said. "He is not required by state or federal law to do an [archaeological] inventory."

The Division of State History also is pleased with McCowan's efforts.

A letter from state historic preservation officer Wilson Martin praises McCowan for integrating the archaeological heritage of the property into his development.

"We enthusiastically commend you for considering the rich cultural heritage, and in particular the valuable prehistoric resources of the Kanab region during the development of your project," Martin wrote.

The letter offers McCowan assistance in obtaining grants and tax incentives for the development.

Chaco Canyon isn't the only southern Utah project where McCowan has tied into existing resources.

Earlier this month he opened a private dog park in another of his Kanab developments in cooperation with Best Friends Animal Society.

The society, headquartered in nearby Angel Canyon, is the world's largest no-kill animal sanctuary, and many volunteers and workers live in McGowan's La Estancia development, where the one-acre park is located.

That fenced park offers all pooches great and small a tunnel, rocky hills and paths - which surround a grass island and a water feature. It even boasts a fire hydrant.

"Dog parks are not common, especially private ones, in small towns," McCowan said.

Best Friends worker Faith Mahoney, who dedicated the park, called it a great addition.

"It's a pleasant, safe environment for people and their dogs," Mahoney said. "The emphasis is not a park that allows dogs, but a park primarily for dogs."

Peter King, who is moving to La Estancia from San Diego, pointed to the park as a reason for his decision

"It was an added plus," he said. "It's just great."

Ed Meyer, a Kanab resident and former director of the Utah Office of Rural Development, lauded McCowan for using Best Friends and the Anasazi ruins to enhance his developments.

"They certainly make his projects marketable," Meyer said. "If you want to sell [houses] to pet lovers, having an animal park makes it more attractive."

Still, he has two warnings for the developer: Make sure the themed developments jibe with master plans and that the museum and amphitheater are well managed.

"They can really be a pain," Meyer said.

McCowan noted the La Estancia Homeowners Association will run the dog park and vowed to support and maintain the museum and amphitheater.

"Hopefully we will have partnerships to help take care of them, time will tell," he said. " In the meantime, we're not waiting for partners. If we don't get assistance, we'll do it ourselves."

And pieces of the past will live on at Chaco Canyon - neighbors to the present and the future.

mhavnes@sltrib.com

Artifacts will be integrated with planned housing, recreational development
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