ATV use on Antelope Island is still under state consideration
by Louise R. SHAW
ANTELOPE ISLAND—Allowing off-highway vehicles on Antelope Island State Park is still “just an idea,” but it’s an idea that is concerning to many people.
Currently, the popular vehicles are not allowed on the island, but “there is a discussion underway,” according to a Utah State Parks blog.
“It’s just an idea that state parks has,” said Wendy Wilson, assistant manager at the park. “Nothing is set in stone and no decisions have been made at this point.”
Park managers were asked to come up with a proposal on how to manage OHV use if it were allowed, she said.
“We issued a proposal after being asked to do so,” said Wilson. It’s still a working document and has not been made public, but it looks at where trails could be allowed and their potential impact on wildlife and erosion.
“We’re always looking at different options and opportunities to expand what our parks offer to the public,” she said. “In some cases, it’s a good fit, in others it’s not a good fit.”
If any changes were to be made, she said, there would first be public meetings and a chance for the public to comment.
“If it gets beyond an idea, there will be an opportunity for public comment,” she said. “It absolutely needs it.”
Richard Webb is one who is anxious to comment on the possibility.
The past president of the Wasatch Chapter of the Back Country Horsemen of Utah, he emphasized that he is speaking for himself and not for the organization, but that he adamantly opposes allowing OHV use.
“I think Antelope Island is a great resource and the state intended to buy it and restore it to its natural state with all the wildlife and animals that make it so interesting,” he said. “It would negatively affect wildlife and the experience people are looking for when they go out to Antelope Island. ATVs make a lot of noise, kick up a lot of dust and are intrusive to animals – they frighten them.”
In other areas where ATVs have “taken over,” he said, “it absolutely ruins the experience of quiet solitude and seeing things in their natural state,” he said.
County Commissioner Randy Elliott also opposes allowing OHVs on the island and has history on his side.
His father, Ross Elliott, was the director of Utah State Parks & Recreation in the 1980s when the land was purchased with a combination of state and federal funds and set aside as “passive recreation.”
“The Master Plan was for scenic overlooks, walking trails, viewing the pioneer ranch and keeping nature pristine,” Ross Elliott wrote in a memo to the Board of Utah State Parks and Recreation last summer. “I strongly feel that allowing ATVs would be very disrupting to the island’s environment as ATVs are noisy, loud, pollute the air and have been known to start grass fires.”
Commissioner Elliott concurred: “The island is a sanctuary for animals,” he said. “It is quiet, it is scenic, it is a place to get away from the hubbub of the city. Having four-wheelers would interrupt that.”
Nick Faulkner, general manager of Layton Cycle and Sports, was supportive of adding the new use to the island’s offerings with restrictions – allowing ATVs only on designated trails.
“I would not be opposed to it as long as there are marked trails and people stay on marked trails,” he said. “It would definitely bring more to the economy here.
“The state has a lot of places (for OHV use) but not a lot that are close,” he added. “It would be very interesting to see more of the island but the key is respecting what’s there and staying on trails.”
That is the problem that concerns Webb.
“ATVs have difficulty staying on the roads,” said Webb. “There are all kinds of laws but it comes down to enforcement and they don’t have enforcement.”
“I’m not against ATVs but everything has its appropriateness,” he said. “Riding bikes is good but you don’t ride bikes on the freeway, and we don’t take ATVs where it’s not appropriate. It would just ruin the experience of people who want to experience the quiet and the beauties of nature without excess noise and dust.”
According to the Utah State Parks Blog, parks officials are constantly evaluating possibilities for new recreational activities at parks. After “thorough study and consideration,” if ATV use is considered a viable option, they would set a public comment process and “seek feedback from stakeholders.”
“The mission of Utah State Parks is to enhance the quality of life by preserving and providing natural, cultural and recreational resources,” it reads, “for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”