Residents voice opinions on (and mostly against) OHVs in parks

Discussing changes to Utah OHV law, Niehaus references curfews, ‘designated routes’

Members of the Grand County Council, Town Council of Castle Valley and Moab City Council discuss a resolution against allowing off-highway vehicles into southeast Utah’s National Parks. Photo by Carter Pape

During a collaborative meeting of the Moab City Council, Grand County Council and Town Council of Castle Valley, in which each body unanimously voted to oppose the use of off-highway vehicles in southeast Utah’s National Parks and Monuments, a room full of Grand County residents showed up to speak about the issue.

Grand County Council Chair Evan Clapper, who headed up the Tuesday, Oct. 15 meeting, gave members of the public an opportunity to speak before the councils took their votes. Among the points brought up in opposition to the use of OHVs in the parks, Kiley Miller, a Moab resident, said that she hoped to see the vehicles off the streets altogether. “I support this resolution, and I also ask the councils to join forces and try to get them off of our streets,” Miller said.

The point later came up in talks following the three unanimous votes by the councils to approve the resolution. Moab Mayor Emily Niehaus invoked the ideas of curfews and designated routes in discussing the issue. “I do think that we need to, as a resort community, discuss the Utah law that allows ATVs, UTVs and OHVs on the road,” Niehaus said. “I think that, in the resolution, it is very clear that we do not want to eliminate that user group from recreating in our community, but there has been a public outcry regarding the noise.”

One resident of the ten who provided public comment at the meeting made the case against the resolution and in favor of allowing OHVs in the area’s National Parks and Monuments. “I just don’t support what you’re doing here,” said Kent Green, lead wrangler at Moab Cowboy Country Offroad Adventures. “I think that you’re not speaking for all Moab residents, just a few.”

Green said there was a “discrimination” issue at hand with the efforts to oppose a change to the OHV rules in National Parks. A resident who spoke before Green said that discrimination “is against people,” as opposed to vehicles, “and everyone is welcome to the parks.”

The other residents spoke about “protecting” the National Parks, including against the noise pollution that is a frequent subject of Moab residents’ lamentations. Resident Michael Grindstaff said that allowing the rule change would “fundamentally alter the experience” of visiting National Parks near Moab.

Clapper echoed many of the citizens’ concerns during discussion about the matter, pointing out that even seemingly mundane activities like flying a kite are disallowed in National Parks because it can impact visitors’ experiences.