PROVO — A Utah businessman is willing to purchase Utah County's 21-acre land parcel at Bridal Veil Falls for $2.5 million as a part of a development proposal for the scenic location.
Richard Losee, the founder of the Cirque Lodge Drug and Alcohol Addiction Recovery Center, submitted his development proposal to the Utah County Commission on Friday. The plan includes a tram that would soar over the Provo River and above the falls to a lodge. A helipad would also be created.
It comes just three days after a pair of city councils passed resolutions aimed to pressure the commission into passing a conservation easement to preserve the land from future development, instead. The commission is expected to weigh Losee's plan and a conservation easement during a meeting Wednesday.
Losee offered three ways to secure land within his proposal. He said he would be willing to pay $2.5 million to purchase the land parcel from the county and then deed back about 20 acres back to the county contingent upon agreeing to use it for conservation purposes or "dedicate it to a recognized conservation entity."
Another option is to pay $1 million for "just the tram acquisition." The third option is a lease for tram acquisition for $20,000 a year for 50 years.
Losee acknowledged that all three options he provided would "require some subdivision, building permit, business licensing and/or other approvals," which includes a blessing from the U.S. Forest Service — the federal agency that oversees other land surrounding the county's 21-acre section above Bridal Veil Falls.
In addition to a tram, lodge and helipad at the top, Losee is seeking a parking lot location and a base station at the bottom of the falls. Both would be located between U.S. Highway 189 in Provo Canyon and the Provo River. The total land size of the project is 42,330 square feet, he wrote.
Losee wrote that the tramway would be open to the public from Memorial Day to around Labor Day.
"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," he wrote. "I hope to give the public an option of viewing the Falls from a spectacular tram experience rather than perpetuating the ongoing injuries and even deaths that occur from people precariously climbing the cliffs."
Development isn't anything new to Bridal Veil Falls. A tram ran to the land above the waterfall from the 1960s through the mid-1990s. It has since been removed. The county purchased the land for $2.4 million in 2015, and the commission approved $900,000 in funding for access upgrades late last year.
Losee's interest in the land isn't new, either. He wrote that he was "a signature away" from acquiring tram operations in the 1980s before backing out. The county commission also rejected a plan for the area in 2018.
"I love the Bridal Veil Falls area as much as anyone … even with Utah County's purchase of the property little has been done to beautify the area or attempt to put it into a natural or preserved space," he wrote, part. "In fact, little has even been done in regards to maintenance and it has been neglected for 25 years.
"My vision is to increase public access and enjoyment of the Bridal Veil Falls area; not to limit it," he continued. "I very much like the idea of preserving and making available to the public the Falls experience. By that, I do not mean restoring it to pristine nature because that cannot happen as the canyon itself has transformed."
It does appear Losee will face an uphill battle, however. City councils for both Provo and Cedar Hills passed resolutions earlier this week to request the county commission preserve the land with an easement instead.
"It preserves our most valued and pristine sites in Utah County — all of the state of Utah, forever," said Provo City Councilmember Bill Fillmore. "I think if we did an instantaneous poll of our citizens, we'd have overwhelming support for that."
Commissioners Nathan Ivie and Tanner Ainge publicly supported the idea of an easement ahead of the passing of the resolutions. Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee also issued a statement following the resolutions that he rejects "any plans to sell some or all of the Bridal Veil Falls property."
Losee wrote Ainge and Lee have "expressed their support of the endeavor" in the past.
"In good faith, I have spent considerable time and resources preparing a proposal to give to the County and public. Please offer me the consideration and supplementary time needed to share the full proposal I have been preparing," he added. "If upon presentation, the public and County reject this vision then at least they will have been given an opportunity to fully understand an option that I believe would equal or surpass any man/nature relationship extant."
The commission is set to discuss the matter next Wednesday at a 3 p.m. meeting.