Moab city has asked Grand County to “sincerely consider” not renewing the special events permit for the annual Discount Tire Rally on the Rocks, a UTV(utility task vehicle) and side-by-side event held in May. Public comments on the matter gathered by the city revealed both frustrations and support for the event, which brings approximately 5,000 UTV enthusiasts to town each year. Moab city recently passed those comments on to Grand County’s Special Events Coordinating Committee, whose members plan to review any compliance issues with Rally on the Rocks during a special meeting Aug. 17.
“There are concerning issues about these [UTVs] and I think they need to be addressed,” said Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison.
In a July 13 letter to the county, Sakrison, writing on behalf of the city and Moab City Council, cited issues with noise and public safety, as well as general quality of life issues that he said are associated with the event.
“I tried to have a conversation with the county last year about this. This [letter] is another attempt to say ‘maybe we can modify this,’” Sakrison said. “... If [Rally on the Rocks] is willing to sit down and talk about it, maybe we can work on some modifications.”
Held over one week in May, Rally on the Rocks has grown significantly in size since the first event in 2011. Last year, the rally attracted 1,100 registered vehicles, which organizers say represents more than 5,000 participants. The event’s website asserts that Rally on the Rocks is second only to Easter Jeep Safari in terms of “economic events” in Moab.
Similar to Easter Jeep Safari, Rally on the Rocks participants drive their motorized vehicles on popular trails in the surrounding area, including Hell’s Revenge, Steel Bender and Chicken Corners.
But Sakrison says the main concern of some Moab citizens when it comes to Rally on the Rocks is the noise of UTVs in residential neighborhoods, once the vehicles are off the trail. As long as the vehicles are equipped to “street legal” standards, they can drive on local roads, streets and highways, according to state law.
In the letter to the county, Sakrison said the “roar of the machines” associated with the event greatly affects both residents and non-rally visitors to Moab.
Resident comments collected by Moab city also underscore issues related to “noise pollution,” with some people stating they have “had enough” of the noise and have come to “dread” Rally on the Rocks every year.
“These owners of these machines should trailer them to the trailheads instead of adding to the noise and chaos that is spring in Moab,” said resident Bruce Condie. “Continuing to encourage these people is destroying our town. I feel like I’m living in the pits of the Indy 500. Please get these things off our streets.”
Sakrison’s letter also indicated that UTV users on roads and highways create a “public danger” for pedestrians and cyclists, saying that some local residents are currently lobbying the state Legislature to reconsider ATV and UTV use on roads and highways.
Resident Kya Marienfeld said the economic gains to the community do not outweigh the quality of life issues she believes are associated with the special event.
“This commercial event should not take precedence over the welfare of Moab and Grand County residents, and the negative effects on our quality of life are not worth the small economic impact the event may bring — especially when there is never an issue filling every restaurant and hotel in town during our busy tourist season,” Marienfeld said.
Although he acknowledged there could be legitimate issues associated with Rally on the Rocks, organizer Sean Reddish believes the event is being unfairly lumped in with all of the stressors that occur during a busy tourism season in Moab.
“Everything that happens in May is now associated with us,” Reddish said.
Each year, Reddish said, the group tries to reduce its impacts, including limiting how quickly participants can accelerate on the highways, which he says reduces the amount of noise. And last year, event organizers worked with the Grand County Sheriff’s Department to reroute certain guide-led trails away from neighborhoods.
Nevada resident Kayla Gott travels to Moab every year to participate in Rally on the Rocks. She wrote to the city that the event’s organizers communicate a “leave no trace” and “throttle down” ethos with all participants, the majority of whom, she said, drive respectfully.
“Hopefully, a few disrespectful drivers will not ruin the reputation of the thousands and thousands of respectful families that are able to enjoy the trails around Moab,” Gott said. “Please consider the majority of respectful participants who have nothing but a love of the off-roading sport and are good stewards of the public land.”
Local residents who wrote in support of Rally on the Rocks described any attempt to deny the group’s permit as “discriminatory” and Sakrison’s letter an attempt by Moab city “to bully the county.”
“You may find that if you move forward with this that there will be a whole lot more noise made by the community than there ever was by the UTVs of this event,” said Moab resident Joe Day.
The Grand County Special Events Coordinating Committee will discuss, during an Aug. 17 meeting, whether Rally on the Rocks has any compliance issues. That committee is made up of county department heads including planning and zoning, the Moab Valley Fire Department, the Grand County Sheriff’s Department and Grand County Emergency Medical Services.
Elaine Gizler, Moab Area Travel Council executive director, oversees the special events coordinator, which is now a position within her office. She said the committee will take the concerns of Moab city and the comments from the community very seriously as they review any issues with Rally on the Rocks.
“We’re not taking it lightly,” Gizler said. “[The meeting] is a chance to really find out what’s happening around the county when this particular event is occurring. ... The committee members will be reviewing all the information, all the public comments. We’re taking all of that into consideration.”
According to the county, the special events committee could make certain requests of Rally on the Rocks if committee members identify compliance issues with the event. Alternatively, the committee could bring the matter before the Grand County Council.
Ultimately, Reddish hopes Rally on the Rocks will continue to be part of the Moab community. He told The Times-Independent that the event contributes to the area through transient room taxes, paying for law enforcement and medical services, and charitable donations. Last year, he said, the event donated a total of $15,000 to the BEACON Afterschool Program and the Helen M. Knight Elementary School food program.
For any issues that the committee might find, Reddish said, he hopes to solve them.
“If there are issues [with our event] we want to clearly define them and clearly work on them,” he said. “If the county has concerns we’ll address those and fix them.”
To comment on Rally on the Rocks, or any other special event throughout the year, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments can also be mailed to: Grand County Council, 125 E. Center St., Moab, UT 84532.