Cool weather kept the usual influx of sand fans from crowding to the Little Sahara Sand Dunes as the Easter weekend got under way.
Juab County Sheriff Dave Carter estimated there were fewer than 8,000 people in and around the 60,000-acre recreation area Friday. The Bureau of Land Management released a 4,208-visitor count for the recreation area itself. Last year more than 15,000 people jammed into the recreation area and surrounding primitive camps on Friday to create a city larger than the four major communities in Juab County combined.However, Carter said the number of visitors was expected to rise Saturday and Sunday. "We think there will be a lot of people come in Saturday and Sunday, many of them just for the day." The sunny, warm weather at the Dunes would attract a lot of people who just wanted a nice place to have fun for a day, he said.
Arrests are still up, Carter said. At the roadblock and within the park, law enforcement officers had made 45 off-road vehicle arrests; two drunken driving arrests, 46 other alcohol-related arrests; 48 other traffic violation arrests; and 14 drug arrests, for a total of 155 arrests. The drug arrests were mostly for possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor.
"The roadblock is still highly effective and will be manned through Sunday," Carter said.
Injury accidents were down, with only two being reported. A Midvale man, Tony Tucker, 27, was injured in a vehicle accident, the sheriff said. A West Jordan 1-year-old burned a hand after falling into a camp fire. The child was taken to a hospital.
Carter said articles that earlier appeared in newspapers at the beginning of the holiday warning people about the new registration law for recreation vehicles were a help. "Many people were grateful for the warning and had obtained stickers for their vehicles just before leaving home," he said.
"The crowd is behaving really well," Carter said. "People are staying in their camps and are not running around a lot. It is more family oriented, and everyone seems to be having fun and obeying the noise ordinance.
Carter said that since 1977, when more than 60,000 people crowded into the area, law enforcement officers had been working to make the park a place where families could visit and have a peaceful holiday.
"We have a lot more people farther away from the campground this year," Carter said. People were traveling to the Topaz and Desert mountains to camp this year. "Those are people who want to be away from the crowd but are still family oriented," the sheriff said.
Carter said many of the usual dunes fans may have also traveled to Moab for the Easter Jeep Safari. "We know the campgrounds in the Moab area are full, and many of the same people who enjoy riding in the sand have probably gone to Moab this year hoping for warm weather."