At their Aug. 3 meeting, the Grand County Commission discussed several items related to tourism promotion and events and Moab’s brand.
In April, the commission approved a special events permit for the Parriott’s Garage Performance Auto Show to be held at the Old Spanish Trail Arena in October.
The event was approved with a 1,000 participant cap to comply with a COVID-19 ordinance that was in place at the time; event organizers requested that the cap be limited to 1,000 attendees, rather than participants, meaning that staff and vehicle owners would not be included in the count. The local business owners organizing the event also wished to emphasize their intention to produce a community-friendly event.
“It was never our intention to negatively affect our community with loud noises or extensive cars or anything along those lines,” said Brenner Parriott, one of the event sponsors. “Obviously our Moab community’s not looking for things like that.”
Parriott said the event sign-up forms include warnings about noise concerns associated with vehicle starting and revving.
“We’ve also noted that we don’t condone the Main Street cruising,” he said. “We’ve explained the reckless driving issues and how busy our town is.”
Commissioner Kevin Walker pointed out that elsewhere in the same agenda, the commission was considering tightening COVID-19 protocols, and that approving the request would be loosening them; while he said there was nothing “magical” about the number 1,000 as a participant limit, he wants to make sure the commission is maintaining consistency in its messaging about COVID-19.
Commissioner Sarah Stock said that while she appreciates the Parriotts’ approach to the event, she would vote against approving the request, as she voted against approving the event in April.
“I’m hearing from a huge part of the community that is overwhelmed by off-road enthusiasm, and I just have to stay true to representing those folks as well,” she said.
The request was approved 5-2, with commissioners Stock and Evan Clapper in opposition.
At the commission’s last meeting, an agreement with Emery Telcom was approved to show four videos promoting sustainable recreation in Moab on screens in hotels in town. The request from the Grand County Sustainable Trail Committee was for six videos, but some commissioners, including Stock, preferred leaving out two of the videos that seemed to be weighted heavily toward motorized recreation. The two omitted videos were “5 Tips for an Awesome Moab Adventure” and “What Makes a UTV Street Legal in Utah.” Stock argued that more imagery of UTVs, Jeeps, and dirtbikes will reinforce Moab’s reputation as a motorized recreation destination.
“I do think we have to worry about the Moab brand,” agreed Walker. “When people come to town and unfortunately they just hear lots and lots of UTVs… it’s easy to get the impression that Moab is mostly a place for motorized recreation. And it’s not just the direct messaging that we’re giving, but whether we’re showing mostly UTVs or mostly something else on videos.”
Other commissioners noted, however, that the videos would be shown to visitors who are already in town and probably already have their activities planned; they argued that once people have arrived, they’re less likely to be influenced by the motorized imagery, but those who are already planning on motorized recreation could benefit from information on motorized rules and etiquette.
Commissioners approved including the two videos in the agreement, with an understanding that they may later be edited to be more balanced in depicting a variety of recreation activities. The vote was 6-1, with Stock in opposition.
Commissioners considered an extension of a contract that the Moab Area Travel Council has with a “visual influence platform” called Crowdriff, which helps the Travel Council find photographs on social media, contact the posters of those photos, and get permission to use them on the Travel Council’s website and social media platforms.
“We’re using over 500 photos, which is about $36.85 a photo,” said Elaine Gizler, director of the Moab Area Travel Council. “We could not pay a photographer to go out and take all of these different pictures. The cost would be astronomical.”
Commissioners Stock, Walker, and Woytek said they hoped the Travel Council will look for opportunities to contract with local artists, rather than using “the bot,” as Stock called it, to select photos. Gizler responded that while local artists were also used, she felt there was not always a positive response from local businesses to Travel Council proposals. For the quantity of images the Travel Council needs to maintain its social media platforms, Gizler said, it would not be practical for any photographer to achieve.
The commission voted 5-2 in favor of the contract, with commissioners Gabe Woytek and Trish Hedin in opposition.