Protest on the Desert: Disabled ATV Riders See Closed Roads As Discrimination
|Richard Beardall and Andrea Clayson ride a road which the Bureau of Land Management has marked closed. Chad Booth is seen photographing the event to be broadcast on At Your Leisure on Channel 4. |
Rain does not dampen protesters objective
On Saturday, more than 50 people gathered at the Hidden Splendor mine site to protest the closing of the road into the Muddy River by the Bureau of Land Management. Richard Beardall, president of the American with Disabilities Access Alliance spearheaded the protest.
"Our mission is to provide access for elderly and disabled Americans to our public lands. We are hoping to draw attention to the impact this closure has had on many citizens," said Beardall.
As the clouds rolled in and the rain came down, Beardall addressed those gathered at the site. "My fellow Americans, I welcome you here to this celebration of American freedom." He went on to give the history of the closure and told a story of four elderly men whom he had met two months after the closure of this road in BLMs travel plan. He was at the site when these gentlemen pulled up in their car.
The men told him of their youth spent in the area working in the various mines. "They had been miners here, worked away their youths to dig the uranium that has kept us free for so many years. They wanted just once more, just once more, to see the cabins where they lived while laboring in this splendid setting. But they could because this barrier stopped them. You see they no longer had the physical ability to walk to the place they once labored. The misguided agents of our government have stopped them. They were no longer welcome," Beardall said.
Beardall went on to say that this group does not want to break the law, but in the style of Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, they are here to show that they will not take this oppression anymore. "Now I'd like to invite the oldest living member of the grand patriarch family of the San Rafael desert to join me. Monte Swasey, join me to once again go where your family, roamed free," Beardall concluded. He then climbed on his 4-wheeler and led the procession of protesters. Members of the crowd moved aside the barrier and the riders passed it with their American flags waving.
John Anderson, a Salt Lake City resident who owns mining claims in the closed area, followed the ATVs down into the canyon with his Jeep. Anderson says that he is required to pay the BLM a yearly fee of $125 per mine to keep the claims active, but is unable to access his property with the closure. "I worked in the Hidden Splendor mine with my father many years ago. My dad, Phil, spent his last years here working with his friend. He was a diabetic and needed insulin daily. Inside the mine is a small seep that runs very cold water and that is where he kept his insulin cold during that time," said Anderson.
Prior to the protest on Saturday, Beardall and Mark H Williams, president of the SouthEastern Utah OHV Club, met with the BLM and Emery County officials to discuss the planned event. The BLM decided on that day not to attend the protest to issue citations to those who crossed the barrier.
When the protesting riders rode up out of the canyon, Beardall shouted, "It's prettier than I remember. I wish I could have stayed longer. The last time I was here was 20 years ago."
Five off highway vehicle clubs from the area were represented in the applauding crowd. Members of the Sage Riders, the SouthEastern Utah OHV Club, the Castle Country OHV Club, the Bookcliff Rattlers from Grand Junction, Colo., and the Utah Trail Machine Association were loudly shouting their support for the protesters.