Terrain damage from off-road vehicles in the foothills above Pleasant Grove has been so severe that a representative of the division of State Lands and Forestry has vowed to officially close state property in the area within one to two weeks.
Dick Buehler, regional district manager of State Lands and Forestry, told members of an ORV citizens committee Thursday that Molly's Nipple, a small mountain east of Pleasant Grove, has been so damaged by ORV users that closure is the only alternative left. While terrain on the front of the mountain has been striped by ORVs cutting trails up it, the back of the mountain has been almost completely stripped of all terrain.The trails cut into the foothills from the Point of the Mountain to Spanish Fork have destroyed vegetation and caused erosion problems, increasing the risk of flooding, mudslides and loss of critical watershed.
Concerted enforcement efforts by the Uinta National Forest Service, Division of Wildlife Resources, the Utah County sheriff's department and members of the citizens committee appear to be having an effect on unauthorized ORV use in the area above Pleasant Grove. Last year, deputy sheriffs handed out as many as 300 tickets, and this year, traffic in the foothills appears to have dropped, said Lt. David Lamph.
Still, Buehler acknowledges that concerned agencies do not have the resources to control the ORV problem and suggested that the county pass an ordinance prohibiting ORV use in the foothills.
"If the county passed an ordinance prohibiting ORV use along the foothills for protection of the watershed and habitat, it would be a place to start with enforcement," Buehler said.
Trails open to ORV vehicles are Squaw Peak Trail from Provo Canyon to Snowslide Canyon in Hobble Creek and Tibble Fork in American Fork Canyon to golf course area in Wasatch Mountain State Park in Midway.
Deputy sheriff Alex Hunt said enforcement agencies currently have three laws that can be used in ORV control. Those laws control riders under the age of 16 who have not been certified to use ORVs, use of ORVs in watershed areas and a posted open law that took effect last July, which applies only to public property and states that if an area is not posted open to use, it is automatically closed to all activities.
Private property owners must indicate through signs or fences that their property is closed to use. Members of the citizens committee with property in the foothills are in the process of erecting heavy-duty metal signs closing their property to ORV riders.
Laws, enforcement and signs are part of the solution to ending the scarring and resulting erosion problems being caused along the foothills by ORVs, but the key, said committee members, is public education.
Committee member Arlo Shelley has been taking the Forest Service's "Tread Lightly" program, which focuses on proper ORV use, to local schools. "Tread Lightly" programs also are given during hunter education and ORV use certification classes.
Forest Service officials hope that this four-pronged approach will continue to decrease the amount of damage in local foothills by ORV users. But, they say, it may take a significant rainstorm to get the message across that destroying the mountain's vegetation has serious consequences: such a storm could cause the bared soil, lacking anchoring vegetation, to end up in back yards all the way from the foothills to State Street in northern Utah County.
- Obtain a travel map from the Forest Service detailing open roads and rules governing ORV use.
- Avoid running over young trees, shrubs and grasses - damaging or killing them.
- Travel around meadows, steep hillsides or stream banks and lake shores easily scarred by churning wheels.
- Resist the urge to pioneer a new road or trail or to cut across a switchback.
- Stay away from wild animals that are rearing young.
- Obey gate closures and regulatory signs.
- Stay out of wilderness areas. They are closed to all vehicles. Know where the boundaries are.
- Get permission to travel across private land. Respect landowners' rights.
Rules related to ORV use :
- Operate ORVs only on areas, roads and trails designated open.
- Operator and vehicle must meet all applicable state vehicle/operator requirements unless exempted as shown on Travel Maps.
- Vehicles must be equipped with appropriate manufacturer's muffler and sparkarresters.
- Recreational riding within developed campgrounds is prohibited.
- ORVs should not be operated on public lands in a manner likely to cause damage to the soil, wildlife, cultural or vegetative resources.