The Grand County Council had to find the delicate balance between widespread public concerns over a popular event and the economic benefits that event brings to the community when members voted 5-1 Tuesday to approve a permit for the 2020 Rally on the Rocks – albeit one with probationary status.
Council Member Mary McGann said she met with members of the Grand County Special Events Coordinating Committee where Rally organizer Sean Reddish made a number of concessions in an effort to keep the event in place. Roughly 600 UTV enthusiasts come to town for Rally on the Rocks, but organizers believe much of the conflict with residents comes from people with UTVs that aren’t registered Rally participants and come to town because of the vendors.
Noise levels created by the machines, which drive through Moab and Grand County neighborhoods and commercial areas on the way to various trails, is probably the most contentious issue.
McGann, who attended the events committee meeting Aug. 15, provided her parameters for the event with Reddish participating via telephone. McGann in her motion to approve the permit noted nine concessions were agreed to, including no increase in participants, that participants sign a pledge committing them to reduce noise levels when in residential and business areas, as well as agree to preserve, protect and respect the local land and community.
Every vendor who participates in Rally on the Rocks is required to have people read the pledge at the point of purchase. Each vendor must also display a poster outlining how to protect the landscape. The event will run from Tuesday through Saturday next May and organizers will confirm law enforcement officer schedules that week.
No UTVs can be ridden in residential areas before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m. They must obey the speed limit0 and respect pedestrians. They must watch a UTV educational video prior to completing their registration and the organization will continue to donate money to local nonprofits in Moab and Grand County.
Resident Neal Clark urged the council to deny the permit, saying UTV’s en masse are “fundamentally incompatible with a peaceful life.”
Clark said people were outraged at the Rally held last spring. The events committee and the county council are well aware of public concerns, which include safety issues and traffic disruptions along with the noise problem. He was the only member of the public to comment about the event.
McGann agreed it was one of the few events that “prompts public outcry,” but it also brings hundreds of paying customers to local businesses.
Grand County Sheriff’s Sgt. Curt Brewer did not advocate for or against the Rally, saying he was there to address the safety issues of the event. He said the Rally works fairly well because deputies and Moab Police officers – paid by event organizer Reddish – escort participants to and from the various trails.
Brewer also acknowledged the noise level issue, saying in order to ride UTV’s on public streets in Utah, they must have OEM-approved exhaust – OEM means original equipment from the manufacturer – in order to be legal.
It isn’t uncommon for UTV owners to install aftermarket exhausts and sometimes they are louder than what comes from the factory. Reddish, however, noted some aftermarket equipment is quieter than the original.
Chair Evan Clapper cast the lone no vote. Member Curtis Wells was not in attendance.