I remember first hiking the rim above the “G” nearly 50 years ago, before nice young people would shyly stop you and let you know that you’re trespassing a few hundred yards from the carnival ride that’s up there now. I remember not having to plan trips out of town around the inability to get back into town in the afternoon from the north. I remember Mill Creek when it didn’t need “ambassadors” to manage the crowds.
I also remember when it was, generally, quiet here. This was back before our legislators up in Salt Lake decided that it was wrong for off-road vehicles to prowl their residential streets, but just fine for the towns that they like to haul their motor toys out to on weekends.
The folks who come to Moab are mostly nice people, but they spend a lot of money to come here and have fun, and they don’t really think all that much about the people who live in this area. I recently sat at the stop sign in front of Dave’s Corner Market while a train of five UTVs heading south on 400 East made the left onto Mill Creek Drive toward Sand Flats. All five were unreasonably loud, with likely modified mufflers, and three were equipped with outside speakers blasting tunes that could be easily heard above the roar of their machines. An awful lot of this kind of people come here, too.
I understand that we have a tourist economy, and I also understand why people want to come to Moab. Every time I leave town on busy weekends to escape the hordes, I’m a tourist myself. But there’s a limit on what the county can absorb without destroying what makes this a great place to live, rather than just recreate. Most of what’s happening here is not being driven by locals opening a shop in the building on Main that their grandma left them, either. Moab is now in the grip of big-time outside money, along with a stunning number of ORV rental outfits cashing in on all the free advertising, that plainly do not care about the quality of life of the locals. Moab is simply a profit source, and as the pie grows, more and more businesses will come in to grab thinner and thinner slices. As I overheard someone with better words than me say recently, “I don’t ask you to sacrifice your quality of life for my bottom line. Don’t ask me to sacrifice my quality of life for yours.”
UTVs are manufactured to be loud because they sell better that way, and as currently built, are inappropriate for both in-town and backcountry use. It’s not too much to ask that ORV operators play in such a way that they can’t be heard from miles away. They are not alone out there, and if they’d like to reduce the amount of flack they get from quieter backcountry users, driving vehicles as silent as my pickup would go a long, long way.