A “public nuisance” is a common law offence in which the injury, loss or damage is suffered by the public in general rather than by an individual in particular. The sheer number and noise from the ever-increasing flood of ATVs in Moab without a doubt constitutes a public nuisance. Since 2002, we’ve lived on a busy corner in residential Moab. When we purchased our home, 400 East was reasonably quiet. Now during the eight-month tourist season, it’s like living next to an airport or a neighbor who mows his lawn ten times a day.

Wave after wave of ATVs devalues life in general. At the height of the season, we get up to 50 ATVs in the morning on their way to Sand Flats, and again the same 50 ATVs returning home in the evening… sometimes as late as midnight! On weekends, we don’t use the yard because it’s too noisy. The ATV invasion has seriously affected property owners’ rights to peace and quiet as well as the value of their real estate. Anybody who wanted peace and quiet wouldn’t purchase our home. The endless interruption by noisy ATVs has to be listed in the Seller’s Disclosure Statement. Appraisers would take note of our location and down-value the property. Potential buyers would lower their purchase price offers. Moab residents are unhappy, and for good reason. We are being damaged, both economically and psychologically.

Moab has a hundred times the concentration of ATVs than Salt Lake City and yet Salt Lake City bans them on their streets. Either the legislators are hypocritical, or they don’t understand the situation in Moab. Big government far away in Salt Lake City has dictated to all smaller and local governments: “No ATVs on our residential streets, but all other cities must suffer ATVs everywhere and anytime.” The people of Moab simply want the same legal right as Salt Lake City, namely, to decide how to control the invasive flood of noisy ATVs. We need local control of a worsening situation that legislators do not comprehend.

For every 100 ATVs that come to Moab, there are 200 tourists who go elsewhere. It’s common sense: who wants to be around noise? Tourist destinations that have precious natural beauty like Costa Rica, Africa, Alaska, etc. have learned that ecotourism is a fast-growing and vastly profitable business. ATVs destroy natural beauty with their race-ways criss-crossing open space and their ever-present noise. Even if the manufacturers and rental agents are paying off politicians, making a profit at someone else’s expense is not right. Bullies at the playground can’t be allowed to continue to inflict their will on everyone else. Profits for ATV manufacturers and rental agents go up and the public welfare and economic vitality of Moab goes down. Besides being shortsighted and foolish, citizens allowing ATVs to run roughshod through residential areas and pristine desert landscapes is a kind of theft and self-destruction.

Philip Wagner


While the original law did permit ATVs to be banned in Salt Lake County, a bill passed in 2017 overrode decisions by local officials and limited bans on ATVs in Salt Lake County to any highway with a speed limit of 50 mph or higher and specific roads where they may be dangerous. -ed.