Sand Flats welcomes two new members to stewardship committee

At their quarterly meeting on Thursday, July 12, the Sand Flats Recreation Area Stewardship Committee interviewed and voted on new members for two vacant positions. Tom Dillon and Mike Kelso will now serve on the committee. Selected from a pool of five applicants, both received unanimous support from the two current committee members and Grand County Council representative Evan Clapper.

Balancing mixed use is a major objective at Sand Flats, so one member was selected based on his ability to represent motorized interests while the other was picked as a representative for non-motorized uses.

Dillon, currently the bike representative for Trail Mix, will speak for non-motorized uses like mountain biking and hiking. As an avid cyclist himself, Dillon is familiar with many of Moab’s trails and has also volunteered to do trail work on some of them, especially the iconic Slickrock trail. In his interview, Dillon described how Sand Flats was the first place he camped in the Moab area. “Sand Flats holds a special place in my heart,” he said. Dillon is excited to contribute and give something back to a place he loves.

Kelso, a member of the groups Red Rock 4-Wheelers and Moab Friends for Wheelin’, is highly experienced with motorized recreation in Moab. He has done a lot of trail work, including working closely with the Bureau of Land Management to “put signs back up, pick up trash or close things off that shouldn’t be open,” he said. Kelso’s personal vision for the Sand Flats area is “to see a few things restored back to the way it was ten years ago.” He clarified his meaning by saying he knows fencing and regulations are necessary to protect the area, but “some of the trails need some work to bring them back into where they need to be.” Kelso noted the importance of spreading the message to “stay on the trail” and making sure people understand why that is essential.

When the time came to make a decision about whom to select, one stewardship committee member argued the selection shouldn’t be based on the interview alone. Personal investment was the most important factor taken into account. Though not allowed to vote, Andrea Brand, an official with Sand Flats, spoke about the dedication of the two applicants: Dillon’s involvement in meetings and efforts spearheading the dotted route project on the Slickrock Trail, and Kelso’s volunteer work on jeep trails like Hell’s Revenge proved their enthusiasm and commitment to improving Sand Flats.

The selection of new stewardship committee members comes at a time of change and progress for Sand Flats. In addition to continued work on popular trails, next year Sand Flats will undertake a major campground improvement project. Though the improvements are still being finalized, Sand Flats will likely add at least 30 new sites, two group sites and two new bathrooms. Since 2013, Sand Flats has collected more fees than the previous year and 2018 is set to break their visitation records yet again. As Sand Flats continues to grow as a major tourist destination, its management will have to continue balancing a wide variety of recreation types with the need to protect and preserve the beautiful area.

ByBy Nathaniel Smith

The Times-Independent