on the road, Part 3
Public hearing on ATV use on county roads
|Should full sized vehicles and ATVs share the same space? These questions will be answered in a final OHV ordinance for Emery County. |
In Part III of On the Road, a three part series looking at transportation in Emery County, ATVs will be the topic of discussion. For the past two years, a subcommittee of the Emery County Public Lands Council has conducted a survey of all county roads and on a road by road basis has designated that road either open or closed to ATV traffic. A map has been prepared with roads open outlined in green and roads closed in red with three undecided roads outlined in orange. Orange roads include the Bott Lane, Buckhorn Draw road and the Ferron Canyon road from Ferron to the forest service boundary.
The ATV access subcommittee took the process as far as they were able to at which time their findings were given to the Emery County Commissioners for a decision. The commissioners appointed a safety committee to go over the findings of the access committee. After the safety committee completed their analysis, the findings were again brought back to the commissioners. The commission scheduled a public hearing for public comment on the draft OHV ordinance which was held on April 5.
The public hearing saw a full house of people speaking on their views of ATVs and county roads. Commissioner Ira Hatch, commission chairman, conducted the public hearing. He said a draft ordinance has been prepared and the final ordinance will be a governing document to the specifics of ATV use on county roads. Hatch said he viewed the final document as a fluid document where changes can be made as needed in the future as trails are developed.
Ray Petersen, public lands department director, began with an overview of the draft ordinance. He showed the maps of open and closed routes surrounding each of the communities in the county. "This is an important issue and a lot of work has gone into the draft ordinance." Petersen read the draft ordinance and the Utah state code in reference to ATVs and local ordinances.
Petersen stressed the point that the opening of any routes in cities is for the specific purpose of obtaining access to open public lands roads and trails. ATVs are not to be used to go to the post office. ATVs which are registered for husbandry use are exempt from the draft ordinance. The Bureau of Land Management and the forest service are in favor of opening routes from cities which allow users to access appropriate ATV travel routes. Roads will not be marked at this time on the ground as open or closed which will take funding in the future, but routes will appear open or closed on maps which will be made available to the public.
Any open routes are subject to all state codes. The draft ordinance states that ATV users from ages 8-16 may operate with an education certificate from an authorized state OHV training course and those 16 and older can operate with a valid drivers license. All riders under the age of 18 must wear a properly fitted helmet. All persons between 8-16 must be within direct visual supervision of an adult 18 years or older. All users must obey traffic and safety laws and all users must obey posted speed limits.
Petersen personally recommended that all ATV riders on county roads have a valid drivers license.
The commission will take input and then come back and say which roads are open. All probably won't show up on the final ordinance.
Commissioner Hatch opened up the meeting to public comments. James Nelson wondered about the pushing of snow using four-wheelers whether the ordinance would have an impact on that. Commissioner Hatch said that was a city issue, because most of this snow removal by homeowners takes place in the cities.
They also encouraged him to find out about the rules governing the husbandry use of an ATV.
Fred Hayes said that state laws require county ordinances mirror state law. He said the county ordinance appeared to be more restrictive requiring 16 year old youth to have a drivers license. The county ordinance would exclude youth these ages, who for one reason or another do not have a drivers license yet, from operating OHV on county roads. He also said the nonresident user permits should be covered in the ATV ordinance. He also said a husbandry permit comes with a tag to attach to the machine and if the ATV is used at all for recreational purposes it needs a recreational tag as well. He said the county needs a plan for the issuance of nonresident user permits and he is willing to help with a plan.
|Millsite State Park is a staging area for access to Ferron Canyon Road.|
Scott Wheeler had a question about the age restrictions in the draft ordinance stating that a 15 year old would need someone 18 years of age or older with them. He agreed that 8 year-olds need supervision, but a 15 year old could be OK. "I have a concern with the age requirement," said Wheeler.
Boyd Wilson said he disagreed with Ray Petersen on the age recommendation of 16 and older on the county roads. He suggested the draft ordinance stay in line with the state law.
Randall Stilson said he personally thinks the three roads in question should be opened up for ATV travel.
Tom Lloyd from the forest service read a letter from District Ranger Mesia Nyman concerning her support of connector routes to link the communities to the forest and to the desert.
Mark H. Williams pointed out the increase in the ATV population in the county with 2,478 registered ATVs. He said he thinks Bott Lane should be open to allow access to OHV trails. It is a straight route. In the Buckhorn Draw area, the Buckhorn Road is an important loop road in a popular area which he believes should be opened. He thinks with signing and education full sized vehicles and ATVs can coexist safely.
Dixon Huntington said he didn't see any place in the ordinance that would cover grazers. He has major heartburn with the ordinance and is not in favor of it. He said that Ray and the others involved in the ordinance used safety as their criteria and the safety of young riders. He agreed with the way it is proposed. "Mark H. will not take no for an answer, if you tell him no he comes back next week with alternatives. I've watched this ATV issue evolve and we're soon coming to a point where we will regret their use, because of damage to the resource. I am surprised at Mesia's attitude. This ordinance has no economic benefit. We're committed to sound reasoning and should go with sound reasoning," commented Huntington.
Nelson said, Bott Lane should be open with the recommendation that they use the old route out of town across the road and don't go across the dip road bridge. This way the OHVs will only be on Bott Lane for one mile, also Ferron Canyon needs a staging area.
Ramal Jones said his first concern was that the Buckhorn should be open because of camping and recreation in the area. If you are camping in the Buckhorn you shouldn't have to trailer your machine some place to ride. There are safety concerns on the mountain roads, also. There are more blind turns on the forest routes than on the Buckhorn Road. The benefits outweigh the risks. Bott Lane should be open to get to the cedars. Ferron Canyon should be open. We can't ignore the potential we have for tourist dollars coming into the county to help keep some of our kids here. We were dying in the 50s and I had to leave to find employment, commented Jones.
Richard Beardall from USA-ALL, just recently moved to Ferron. He said that the loop route on the Buckhorn Road is one of his favorites and would like to see it opened. He would also like to see the Ferron Canyon road opened because there isn't ample parking at the forest service boundary and not a good staging area. Bott Lane should be opened as well, commented Beardall.
Mike McCandless from the economic development department said he recently attended two travel shows where he handed out 1,000 pieces of literature on the county and recreational opportunities here. He said most of the people inquired as to OHV opportunities in the county. "They are looking for somewhere to ride, that's different, that's not as crowded. They've been to Moab and it's crowded. They are looking for somewhere new to go. We need the county roads to tie with the BLM plans. We need appropriate staging areas as well," said McCandless.
Glenys Sitterud from Emery Town Council said tourism and recreation can be a money maker. We need to get on board. We need to make money off the people coming in. We need to make the routes and trails usable. Open the Ferron Canyon Road and open the small section of the Consol Road so riders can get up Quitchupah and down Link Canyon. She would like to see Millers Canyon open to get out to the desert and also a trail up past the pageant site to access East Mountain.
Merlin Christiansen said there has been a problem in Emery Town with old farmers not wanting people to go up to where the cows are and we have lost access to these places, when if more cooperation had been shown access would exist today. "Don't drag your feet on this, in the future we will wish we had done something for tourism. Do things to help it and to improve it. Don't forget Link Canyon, the Muddy and Rock Canyon. Make them accessible to ATVs," commented Christiansen.
One Ferron resident who lives along Mill Road, did not see the sense in trailering an ATV or motorcycle to go three miles to access a trail. He said the county isn't under liability for ATV use on county roads. He wondered what the statistics are for accidents with ATVs and full sized vehicles. He thinks it would be better to open the roads and after a year's time do an evaluation and see if any of the roads opened are dangerous.
Reed Martin spoke in favor of opening the Buckhorn Road for ATV traffic. He said it seems dumb to not open it, because it is a great connector link. "Safety issues are everywhere we will always have that, you just have to be careful," said Martin.
Dale Bartholomew from the Public Lands Alliance said not to create a quagmire on which roads are open and which are closed. Most of the time ATVs are trailered to where the rider wants to begin his ride. He sees guided ATV rides as an economic opportunity for the area, with riders dumping money into the communities. He would like to see trails where you can ride from the motels and access routes and trails and then ride back at night to a restaurant. Each tourist can bring from $200-250 perday to your communities.
Jack Fielder said to open the Buckhorn Road. His mother works at the museum and people always ask what they should go and see in the area. Some places are blocked off and the elderly can't walk to see them.
Glen Dale Johnson, Green River Mayor, said with the OHV ordinance you could start riding in Green River and end up at Hidden Splendor which is a 70 mile drive. He spoke in favor of passing the ordinance. "The age limit of those with drivers licenses really restricts family type activity. Take that out," said Johnson.
Jerry Jones from state parks said Millsite Park has been opened to OHV travel to allow access to Ferron Canyon and Ferron Canyon needs to be opened for this purpose in using Millsite State Park as a staging area. He also said kids and parents should ride together to teach the kids safety by way of example.
Eric Luke, public lands council, said he has mixed emotions to opening access. He sees an economic opportunity and a need to have access routes. The safety issue may not be as big as concern as we think, because the draft ordinance states that the ATV rider is obligated to travel at posted speed limits. If speed limits are obeyed it will help with safety. Keep the roads open for family use. OHV drivers without licenses don't have the knowledge to know who has the right of way in what situations. They need adult supervision.
Gil Bowden, Ferron Mayor, said he would like to see the road opened so people can start in town and follow the route and go up Ferron Canyon at posted speed limits. When kids run around on ATVs alone is when damage is done. Bowden mentioned the economic boon experienced in towns connected to the Piute Trail system. He would like to see the same economic opportunity exist for Emery County.
Jackie Wilson, Huntington Mayor, said families are being destroyed all around us and more family oriented activities are needed. She encouraged the commission to open those three roads in dispute.
Commissioner Gary Kofford said Ferron has been gearing up for the influx of people coming to the Arapeen Jamboree in Ferron. They have added 40 hookups which can also be used for Peach Days and the stock show.
Bowden said his motel is 85 percent committed and people are thinking about using private homes as bed and breakfasts during the jamboree time.
Commissioner Hatch said it is important to note that at this time, no county roads are designated as open. Any travel by ATVs on a county road is in violation. "We appreciate your input and we hope to have something put together by the first of May. This is a starting point and a road can be added or taken off as needed. It's up to the community if it's going to work. We will still take written comments on the issue and we will advertise the agenda for the meeting when it will be approved," said Commissioner Hatch.
ATVs and county roads is a heated issue. Hopefully, a countywide ATV ordinance will do much to alleviate the confusion concerning the operation of ATVs on county roads.