Letter to the editor from Kiley Miller (Northern San Juan County)

We have, according to the Moab Happenings event schedule, 50 or more events in the area throughout the year. An estimated 3 million tourists come to Moab every year. A common theme in the letters to the city/county/state, the local papers, and the Salt Lake Tribune are concerns by residents of Grand and Northern San Juan Counties that not only has our quality of life diminished, but our mental health has declined because our communities and beloved public lands are overrun and being destroyed by hyper-tourism.

Stress is added to our lives by: near constant noise throughout the region from motorized recreationists on our roads and in the air, the traffic congestion, long lines at grocery stores and restaurants, empty grocery shelves, residents being impacted by noise from UTVs driving through our neighborhoods day and night, noise in our neighborhoods from nightly rentals, residents on bicycles being struck by vehicles in our world-famous biking community, developers building and investors buying up housing to turn into nightly rentals which jacks up rents and housing prices and pushes out residents, creating a workforce crisis for local businesses, threats to our water supply.

The list goes on and all of this because we’ve overshared and oversold the sandbox.

City and county officials are constantly disparaged by residents accusing them of all the wrong things they see happening to our community, which is the bane of elected officials. But in listening to local government meetings, I find it absurd that newer elected members are jumping on that bandwagon and criticizing long-time commissioners of not working enough with developers and always saying NO to event planners. This was at a county commission meeting where they just approved about a dozen events, accusing fellow commissioners of singling out one user group when they approved other similar events that were less impactful to the community. They even went as far as accusing someone on the commission of reaching under the desk to push a button to alert residents to send mass emails. They’re complaining about the large number of emails they receive from a very engaged community who pay attention to what transpires at city and county meetings and defend the home they love.

Even though tourism has become the cash cow that supports not only this valley but also, in part, the state of Utah, our community has been forced to deal with sharing our home and making enormous sacrifices. Our beloved public lands and wildlife are hugely impacted. We are constantly asking those in power to protect our community and public lands.

Sadly the state has hamstrung our local government’s ability so, in response, our local governments are forced to use whatever tools they can to try to alleviate the pains we are experiencing. Our local government is not perfect but they are good people who have been doing good work to serve all their constituents, not just the ones who clamor that only MORE is better.

We have an engaged citizenry that I am quite proud to be part of. The Moab region is an incredibly beautiful and vulnerable landscape, it needs more defenders not more exploitation. Enough is enough.