Community Resists Star Valley Annexation

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Drive 7 miles out of Payson due east on Highway 260.

The turnoff for Lion Springs Road approaches fast.

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Charlie Brunson inherited 12 acres of land on Lion Springs Road from his mother. Brunson and other families who live nearby want to keep their land from being annexed by Star Valley.

A dusty, cobbled conduit passes a teal and white double-wide with a breezeway and a few tired dwellings to the left, and to the right, a sagging, rusted barbed wire fence that separates the structures from federal land.

As the road travels deeper into the forest, dry, cracking land empty of living vegetation smoothes into a community of rustic homes sitting atop kelly-green acres of grass.

The ranch house near the end of the road belongs to Charlie and Sherry Brunson.

Their children, their children's children and several other family members, some just a few hundred yards away, live on land handed down through generations.

The Brunsons, and other neighbors on Lion Springs Road, would rather keep to themselves. They're not interested in annexing their land to the Town of Star Valley.

"We live out here because we like being rural," said daughter-in-law Carrie Brunson. "We like to be left alone."

Under state statute, the now-incorporated Star Valley is entitled to increase its town limits through annexation.

The process involves petitions, public hearings, taxation, recordation -- a litany of bureaucracy, but annexation can be accomplished.

"There's no animosity toward anyone," Charlie Brunson said. "The Town of Star Valley has been really nice. We don't have anything against them.

"We just like it the way it is. It's the old country lifestyle.

"We don't want someone coming in and telling us what to do. We don't bother our neighbors and they don't bother us."

Star Valley Town Manager Lanny Sloan said the council's won't push the issue.

"(Council is) giving them a letter that says the town won't object," Sloan said.

Even so, county bureaucracy could hinder the process, but nobody's worrying about that yet.

Charlie Brunson's ruddy, clean-shaven face hints of a life lived outdoors. A shallow, straw cowboy hat covers his gray hair, neatly trimmed on the sides.

Eyes the color of a Rim Country summer sky, match his denim Wrangler shirt.

He's been in Payson and Star Valley his whole life, and the acreage adjacent to Lion Springs Road is a family heirloom.

Pioneer landowner Arthur Neal took ownership of the original 31-acre homestead in 1911.

Years later, Little Green Valley rancher Charlie Anderson purchased the homestead, which included a 50-head-of-cattle permit.

To raise money for another ranch, Anderson sold the land to Charlie Brunson's mother.

"We were lucky at the time because we just picked it up from him," Brunson said. "It was out of the way and we loved it."

Mother Brunson split the land among her five boys, who in turn divvied up their parcels and passed them on to their children.

Charlie Brunson inherited 12 of those acres.

Dense foliage shades the stained-pine Brunson ranch home, built in 1971. Inside, a pair of trophy-deer heads -- one bagged by Charlie and the other by Sherry -- emerge from the white wall of the living room.

And the fireplace, it looks like something out of a Zane Grey novel -- large, multicolored shards of rock held together with cement.

Below the bluff where the house sits, a horse named Jason stretches his neck over the fence of the corral to nibble on a swaying willow tree.

Several years ago, Brunson asked the Diamond Star Fire Department to help him and his family protect their land.

"When the town came along, they made Diamond Star Fire Department a part of the town," he said. "We really didn't like that too well so we decided to put in our fire system."

Brunson's 300-foot deep irrigation well pumps 75 gallons a minute. Two-inch pipelines will carry the water to each home through fire hoses.

And if that doesn't douse the blaze, Brunson, who worked for the Forest Service in his youth, will use fire to fight fire -- a technique that starves flames of oxygen.

"It'll be OK as long as we're together," Brunson said.

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