Sand Flats may be known for mountain biking and 4-wheel driving, but during the winter when tourists are few, it is a hiker’s paradise. [Photo by Doug Tree/ Moab Guide Services]

After months of hammering out new noise ordinances and determining testing protocols and decibel thresholds, Grand County will hold a voluntary vehicle noise testing event near the entry booth for the Sand Flats Recreation Area on Thursday, May 27 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Local law enforcement officers and policymakers will use this event to practice procedures and collect data. No citations will be issued, and participating vehicles will get free entry into Sand Flats.

Both Grand County Sheriff’s deputies and Moab City Police Officers will use law enforcement grade sound meters—of which each agency now has two—to conduct stationary sound checks on participating vehicles using a standard protocol that measures decibels at 20 inches from a vehicle’s tailpipe while the engine is revved to a specific RPM. Law enforcement officers will spend some training hours ahead of the event learning to use the equipment and follow the protocols; the event itself will serve as further training. Representatives from local ATV rental businesses will also be volunteering to help facilitate the event.

County officials expect high participation. The voluntary testing is scheduled for the day before Memorial Day weekend, always a busy time for Sand Flats.

“Usually on Thursday morning we have a line that will go down the hill,” said Andrea Brand, director of Sand Flats, of a typical Sand Flats crowd at that time of year.

“I expect a constant stream of vehicles who are interested in testing,” said County Attorney Christina Sloan, estimating that the testing crew might process as many as 80 vehicles during the two hour event. The focus of the testing is on ATVs and motorcycles, both because those kinds of vehicles have been identified as significant contributors to traffic noise and because data on how much noise they create is scarce.

“The ATV industry will not release noise data for ATVs,” Sloan noted.

In addition to educating operators of vehicles found to be out of compliance with the new noise ordinance, officers will be logging data to enter into a data management system being created by the county’s noise consultant, Les Blomberg of the nonprofit Noise Pollution Clearinghouse. Even outside of the May 27 testing event, for the first year of the noise ordinance being in effect, county enforcement officers will not issue any citations to those out of compliance, but will issue warnings and log information. Sloan said the county, in coordination with Moab City, will be managing the data “for at least the first year if not into eternity.” The County Commission will reevaluate the noise ordinance in consideration of the data collected in January of 2022.

Following the testing day at Sand Flats, the county’s noise consultant will be helping to train officers on drive-by testing procedures. These sessions will also be for training and data collection; no citations will be issued.