Bureau of Land Management
Volunteer Feature

Paria Movie Set Restoration

Volunteers Bring "Action" to Historic Western Backdrop

Movie Set Slide Show

The stage was set, but the scene was still not ready. Reconstruction on two Paria Movie Set buildings was nearly finished, but Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument needed "action" to complete the picture. Twenty Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employees and fifty volunteers from the surrounding communities provided the action in April as workers built fences, rock retaining walls, and trails around the Paria Movie Set site.

For almost forty years the movie set served as a backdrop for western movies, television series, and commercials. Located 35 miles east of Kanab, Utah on Highway 89, the original Paria Movie Set was built in the early 1960s for the movie Sergeants Three, a Western featuring Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. It also provided settings for the television series Death Valley Days and Gunsmoke. The last movie filmed there was The Outlaw Josie Wales in 1976.

The set rekindles images of movie stars, western heroes, and shoot-em-up action of days gone by. "It is a place where local people suggest tourists go," stated Kate Cannon, BLM's Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Manager. Visitors from around the world have come to recognize the buildings and surrounding hills as symbols of the American West.

In September 1998, flash floods undermined the buildings and created a safety hazard. In November of 1999, 87 local residents from Kane County, Utah, and Page, Arizona, pitched in to disassemble the Movie Set and salvage the old boards to reconstruct two of the buildings. Meticulous drawings were made of the original structures, but when work began in November 2000, builders determined that most of the salvaged lumber would not be structurally suitable for construction. Even so, the original wood holds special memories, and therefore will be included in the overall design. Plans are underway to incorporate the old boards in interpretive displays for inside and outside the reconstructed buildings.

Reconstruction of the Paria Movie Set has been a real community affair, attracting volunteers from Utah and Arizona who want to keep movie magic and memories alive in Southern Utah. "This project has been a great bond between the Bureau and the community," said Bob Bennett, BLM, Utah Associate State Director, "It's their land and their resources, and volunteers have worked hard on it."

Robert Houston of Kanab spearheaded the Paria Movie Set Reconstruction Project. He provided materials, labor, leadership and food for volunteers through his business, Houstons's Trail's End Restaurant and Mobil Catering in Kanab. For his contributions, Bennett presented Houston with the State Director Volunteer Award during an awards ceremony.

Cannon praised all the volunteers for helping to make the day a great success, but gave special recognition to area residents Dave Deevought, Dan Thebeau, Bruce Hansen, Don Iverson, Joe Houston, Lou Pratt, Doug Dewitz, and the Canyon Country 4x4 Club for their support of the BLM and commitment to the Paria Movie Set Reconstruction Project. Cannon also praised the BLM employees who had worked so hard to make the project a reality.

"The volunteer effort was incredible," commented Barb Sharrow, BLM Assistant Monument Manager for Visitor Services. "It was a cast of hundreds who made it happen." Through the spirit of cooperation between the BLM and Kane County residents, the Paria Movie Set has come to life again and will delight visitors for many years to come. Like any good Western, this story has a happy ending.

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Last Updated: September 17, 2001

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