13 tons of garbage hauled away from Lake Mountain area as part of cleanup
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Thirteen tons of garbage have been hauled out of the Lake Mountain area so far as part of a massive cleanup project to preserve the recreational area and its hundreds of petroglyph panels.
Lake Mountain, located south of Saratoga Springs and west of Utah Lake, is a popular site for shooting guns and riding ATVs where private lands, trust lands and Bureau of Land Management lands are intertwined.
"We're just simply trying to create a paradigm shift that demonstrates a better stewardship by us as managers, and especially as the recreating public, to protect the privilege essentially," said Kim Christy, deputy director of the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration.
SITLA and Utah County are working together with private landowners to curb degradation of the area due to undisciplined recreational use.
"It's a long process," Christy said. "It's been many years that it's brought us to this level, but we're committed to try and turn that tide, and that's what we're starting with in this project."
On April 7, SITLA closed public access to 1,450 acres of particularly problematic trust lands that were heavily abused.
Shooters in the area have left garbage and the items used for targets such as refrigerators, VCRs, mattresses, tires, paint cans and even a car. Christy called it a "staggering" and "horrific" problem.
The perimeter of the closed area will be aggressively marked with signs, and the Utah County Sheriff's Office is "serious" about patrolling the area and enforcing the closures, according to Utah County Sheriff's Lt. Yvette Rice.
Fines could be potentially tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the offense, Rice said.
"There can be significant consequences or repercussions for starting a fire or defacing property," she said.
Cleanup began a week ago with workers and volunteers from the Boy Scouts of America, the Eagle Mountain mayor, members of the Utah County Sheriff’s Office Work Diversion program, private landowners and the archaeological community.
The area contains several hundred panels of petroglyphs, also called rock art, dating back 13,000 years to the Paleo-Indian people. The rock art tells the story of the area's inhabitants as they turned from hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists.
Nearly every petroglyph site has bullet holes from people both intentionally and unintentionally shooting at them, said Steven Manning of the Utah Archaeological Research Institute.
"If they're destroyed, then we don't have that chance to find out all the things about the people who lived here all these years," Manning said, "so it's an exciting place."
In May, a few hundred students will help clean up the dishwashers, chairs, computers and other shot-up items left behind.
The main culprits are "fly-by" shooters, not the core group of regular shooters, according to Dave Taylor, a shooter and outdoorsman from Herriman. Those who are really involved take care of the land, Taylor said.
"I've been complaining about it for years," he said. "I've told the shooters it's a matter of time before they start closing land."
Taylor said he visits the area almost every week with his kids or friends to shoot and enjoy the outdoors. He always picks up trash and takes it home, he said, but it looks about the same when he returns the next week.
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