Mike Suarez, standing in the foreground, told local officials and others that the community could reduce noise from UTVs by requiring owners to properly muffle their vehicles. Suarez was one of more than 100 people who filled the Moab City Council chambers on Tuesday, June 9, during a community meeting with Utah State Rep. Brad King, D-Price. [Photo by Rudy Herndon / Moab Sun News]

Utility-terrain vehicles are not about to disappear from Moab’s city streets.

But community leaders and others are hopeful that they can address local residents’ concerns about the impacts that growing numbers of UTVs are having on Moab’s overall quality of life.

Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison said this week that a newly formed committee of tour operators, law enforcement officials and concerned citizens will begin a dialogue on the issue, following widespread complaints about noise and speeding UTVs.

According to Sakrison, Moab City Police Chief Mike Navarre is asking the public to serve as his department’s eyes and ears. If officers receive complaints about UTVs, they will “do their darnedest” to address them, Sakrison said.

Utah State Rep. Brad King heard some of those complaints firsthand during a June 9 visit to Moab, and the Democrat from Price said he plans to address the issue during an interim legislative committee meeting next week.

However, King made it clear that he would not sponsor legislation that would make it impossible for UTV riders to drive street-legal vehicles down Moab’s streets.

“I think that we have more laws now than we have the ability to deal with,” he said.

If there is a legislative solution to the issue, King suggested that it should mimic a “targeted surgical strike,” instead of an atomic bomb detonation. At the local level, he said, the quickest fix could involve updates to the city’s noise or speed ordinances.

King appeared at the invitation of Grand County Council member Mary Mullen McGann, drawing more than 100 people to the Moab City Council’s chambers.

Although they represented diverse viewpoints, from UTV dealerships to residents who are upset about speeding vehicles, people in the audience almost unanimously supported calls on law enforcement to crack down on scofflaws.

“I think it’s more of an enforcement issue,” Moab resident Kelly Green said. “People need to slow down and be more respectful.”

Both Green and elementary school teacher Robyn Johnson said they believe the problems with speeding and noise largely flare up during busy holiday weekends. They urged officials not to take any drastic steps that would curtail legal UTV use, now that life has returned to a post-Memorial Day state of normality.

“I don’t think we need to jump to have no off-road vehicles, ATVs or UTVs on our city streets,” Johnson said. “I think that we promote tourism – we ask those people to come to our community, and it’s our job to educate them. It’s also our job to enforce the laws, so that if people are breaking the laws, they are penalized appropriately.”

Moab resident Nate Rydman said he is all for putting the screws on the estimated 5 to 10 percent of UTV riders who, in his opinion, give responsible people a bad name.

But he said that UTV traffic extends far beyond the busy holiday weekends.

“It’s not just Memorial Day,” he said. “It’s a crescendo that starts in January and eases off in about December.”

Rydman said he’s seen UTV riders drive “aggressively” up and down 200 East; some of those drivers appear to be 12 years old, he said.

Likewise, Joan Gough said that UTV traffic and related noise in her neighborhood is getting to the point that she can no longer leave her windows open at night.

McGann said she’s heard similar comments from her constituents.

“No one has contacted me and said they don’t want off-road vehicles on the street,” she said.

But people are concerned about noise levels and safety. In response, McGann said she hopes to find ways to manage UTV-related impacts on local residents and neighborhoods.

King said the issue of UTVs on Utah’s city streets dates back to the passage of a state law almost a decade ago.

“It’s not a new problem, although it has obviously manifested some difficulties down here in this last year,” King said.

State UTV laws have gone through various iterations over the years, although King said the first bill originated with rural lawmakers and residents who wanted to operate street-legal UTVs in their small communities.

“It was mostly for rural areas that have agrarian backgrounds,” King said.

At some point, the bill included an opt-out clause for any community in the state, according to King.

Somehow, though, King said that clause “mysteriously” disappeared from the final version of the most recent bill. Today, only Salt Lake County is exempt.

“It’s not just Moab that’s affected by this,” King said.

Moab Powersports & Rentals owner Dorrica Brewer said she believes that people who complain about noise are singling out Razors and UTVs. From her experience, motorcycles and semi-trucks are much louder.

Brewer said her business gives its clients directions to and from area trailheads, and tells them where to turn on Main Street.

“We don’t guide them to go through the residential areas,” she said.

Moab Cowboy Country Offroad Adventures owner Kent Green said organizers of Rally on the Rocks and other UTV-themed events do a responsible job of keeping their participants in line.

“They’re not just coming here and having a free-for-all,” he said.

What’s happening, Green said, is that other individuals who are not affiliated with UTV events are causing problems.

In those cases, he said, officials just need to enforce the laws.

“That’s what it all boils down to,” he said.

Spanish Valley resident Emily Campbell said she believes that UTV event organizers have the community’s interests at heart, and agreed that problems often originate with smaller groups of riders.

However, she estimated that 99 percent of the off-road vehicles that pass through her neighborhood are traveling well above the posted speed limit, and she’s concerned about the impacts that they’re having on safety.

“I think that they’re very welcome to be here as long as they’re considerate,” she added.

Spanish Valley resident Mike Suarez suggested that the community could require UTV owners to ensure that their vehicles are properly muffled, while Moab resident Wayne Hoskisson suggested that the city should strengthen its laws.

“Our noise ordinances won’t help much because they’re very lax,” Hoskisson said.

State, local officials hear more feedback from neighborhood residents

I think that they’re very welcome to be here as long as they’re considerate.