UTV, side-by-side event returns for eighth year
by Greg Knight
The Times-Independent
May 10, 2018 | 772 views | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rally on the Rocks
Photos courtesy Rally on the Rocks
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The 2018 Rally on the Rocks will kick off May 15 — bringing nearly 5,000-plus visitors to Moab — as they take on any number of the 15 trails available to registered participants. The event, which will run through May 20, is now in its eighth year under the watchful eye of organizers Sean Reddish and Lanse Chournos. The event began in 2010 with around 800 participants. This year, organizers expect an even bigger attendance.

A big part of the event this year, as in previous years, is donations to local non-profits and organizations by Reddish and Chournos. For the 2018 event, the two will be offering up more than $20,000 to the BEACON After School Program and an initiative to purchase backpacks for students at Helen M. Knight Elementary School.

“We’re expecting record turnout this year and we want to give a big thanks to Textron Corporation for donating a nearly $25,000 side-by-side to make our charity a reality,” Reddish said.

The rally begins at 12 p.m. on Tuesday, May 15, with the event headquarters located at the Old Spanish Trail Arena. Participant check-in and registration starts at 1 p.m. and a trail guide meeting and dinner is set for 6 p.m. The following day, Wednesday, May 16, trail guides will meet at 8:30 a.m. and drivers will meet at 9:15 a.m. All trail departures will leave at 10 a.m. each day of the rally.

According to organizers, all trail selections, which range from easy to difficult and are rated from two to eight-plus, are final and cannot be changed. Helmets are not required except on three tech-rated trails: Pritchett Canyon, Area BFE and Hells Revenge. The tech trails are rocky, with large ledges and steep terrain, and canyons that present a serious rollover or body-damage risk. All vehicles taking part must have steering wheels, a roll cage and seat belts.

All participants must register at OSTA to receive their wristbands before departing on any trail ride. No alcohol is allowed on any trail and the maximum speed for any vehicle is 25 mph. All participants must remain on designated trails and are asked to line up for their particular trail assignment half an hour before departure time. Any participants taking on the Poison Spider Trail should drive to the trailhead and should not trailer their vehicles.

Law enforcement officers from the Bureau of Land Management, Grand County Sheriff’s Office and Moab Police Department will be patrolling and providing escort during the event. It’s an event Grand County Sheriff Steve White said is one of the better-managed in the area.

“Working with the organizers of Rally on the Rocks is one of the easier relationships we have with events in the county,” White said. “The biggest concern we ever have with this event is doing the escorts, but that said, they are great to work with and bend over backwards to accommodate us and what we need to keep citizens safe.”

White added the majority of his deputies will be involved in traffic control and seeking out unregistered machines near the trailheads and outside city limits.

The event faced stiff opposition from some quarters in Moab and Grand County in 2017, with some residents and City of Moab officials asking the Grand County Council to deny this year’s permit. In a July 13, 2017, letter to the county, former mayor David Sakrison wrote on behalf of the city and the Moab City Council citing issues with noise and public safety, as well as general quality-of-life issues that he said are associated with the event.

Now, Moab City Mayor Emily Niehaus says she believes a lot of credit for a successful event at the city level is due to the diligence of Moab Police Department Chief Jim Winder.

“Chief Winder has been proactive by meeting with the organizers ... as well as his officers in preparing for the event,” Niehaus said. “The department has my confidence and support. Chief Winder also meets with the Throttle Down in Town committee and is part of the forward-thinking efforts regarding ATVs and UTVs in the community. The lack of uniformity in licensing and registration of ATV and UTVs from state to state makes accountability difficult on our law enforcement officers. The community should be aware of this important issue facing enforcement. Chief Winder plans to lead the department to collect data during the event and present it to the Council as part of his Administrative Report at a future Council meeting. I am encouraged to have a fact-based conversation about this and other events in our community.”

The Grand County Council approved the 2018 permit for the event in 2017 on a 5-2 vote, following a positive recommendation by the county’s special events coordinating committee. Council members Greg Halliday and Evan Clapper voted against the permit. The majority of council members argued that the community’s issues with UTV (utility task vehicle) and side-by-side vehicle noise were not tied to the event.

For more information on the rally, visit rallyontherocks.com.

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